A new season had brought new hope and several new signings were expected to make the difference. But in the end, it was the same old story for Manchester United.
In spite of the arrivals of Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen they played like the same team that struggled so badly last season under Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The arrival of Erik Ten Hag was supposed to make the difference. The former Ajax coach, fresh from winning the title in the Netherlands, has been tasked with breathing new life into the Old Trafford club.
But on the evidence provided from the opening day defeat at home to Brighton, United have taken another step backwards.
Graham Potter guided his side to a brilliant win – and they could have won it by a far more convincing score. Potter lead Brighton to 9th last season and judging by the way they dismantled United in their own back yard, they will be confident of finishing even higher this time around. Perhaps crack the top 7 and qualify for Europe? You wouldn’t put it past them after this fine display.
The Seagulls gave the Red Devils the run around all afternoon with their enterprising, collective style of football and not even the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo could stem the tide.
Back in the days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s rule, losing to the likes of Brighton would be a massive upset. Heads would roll as a result. Not anymore. United have fallen so far behind since the legendary Scot retired that the Old Trafford faithful didn’t even boo the players at the full time whistle. It was as if they expected to lose.
United need a massive mindset shift if they are to again become the juggernaut that once ruled the Premier League. This will take time, and you wonder whether Ten Hag has it in him to get the club back on its feet. On the evidence of his first game in charge, he may just become the first managerial casualty of the new season.
United can still transform this ordinary squad before the summer transfer window slams shut at the end of August. They need quality additions in almost every area of the pitch. They look blunt in attack, clueless in midfield and soft at the back. Eriksen looked lost deployed as a false nine while Jadon Sancho again flattered to deceive. Scott McTominay and Fred have never looked capable of being top class together but the pair again started in the engine room. Unsurprisingly, they looked lackluster and whatever Ten Hag tried to drill into them in preseason failed to work.
Ronaldo’s future is uncertain and Anthony Martial is injured. All in all, this could be another very long season for United and yet it has only just begun.