Never before in the Premier League era had Manchester United lost three of its first five games at the start of a season.
Losing 3-1 to Brighton on Saturday, Erik ten Hag’s team wrote its name into the club’s history books for the wrong reasons.
It was no surprise then that the United manager was asked afterward if this losing run represented a crisis.
“No,” was his response. “But we have to be very disappointed and we have to be very annoyed with ourselves. Because at United the demand is you win games.”
United’s fans certainly seemed annoyed. First they jeered when $82 million striker Rasmus Hojlund was replaced by substitute Anthony Martial in the second half. And there were more boos after the final whistle blew on a latest defeat.
Goals from Danny Welbeck, Pascal Gross and Joao Pedro secured Brighton’s fourth-straight win against United in the league, with Hannibal Mejbri scoring a consolation for the home team.
The result left United 13th in the standings with six points, while Brighton moved up to fourth, just three points behind leader Manchester City.
United could drop further down the table if Chelsea beats Bournemouth on Sunday and a season that had begun with hopes of a title challenge is already in danger of unraveling.
Ten Hag had led the club back into the Champions League in his first year in charge and also won the League Cup. But off-field issues involving Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Antony have cast an unwanted shadow over the club, while performances on the field have also been disappointing.
That form continued against a Brighton team that saw late chances for Kaoru Mitoma, Evan Ferguson and Ansu Fati saved by goalkeeper Andre Onana.
“We could score more goals, especially in the last 25 minutes,” said manager Roberto De Zerbi, who added: “the result, I think, is true.”
Ten Hag is now preparing for a crucial week when United plays at Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday before a trip to Burnley on Saturday.
“There are things from the team and individuals who have to step up,” he said. “Sometimes you are in bad period, difficult periods, and you have to face that and deal with that. In this moment we don’t deal too well with it, but we can do like we showed last year.
“We can’t blame anyone else, we have to do better and be more determined, more resilient.”
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