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Erik ten Hag is at his lowest point at Manchester United – now his signings must save the season

Rasmus Hojlund had a goal disallowed against Brighton, but was taken out of the match by Lewis Dunk – Getty Images/Michael Regan

The recruitment of Manchester United’s first team had a Dutch theme this summer, through human resources or through agency deals from the SEG agency. Compare that strategy to the Brighton brain trust that sat in the directors’ box at Old Trafford on Saturday, where their match winners were German, Brazilian and from nearby Longsight.

Erik ten Hag isn’t the first manager to stick to what he knows in the transfer market and now, clearly at the low point of his fourteen months as United manager, those signings will either lead him up the Premier League or leave him behind become the door. with which he is beaten.

Sports Entertainment Group, the Dutch agency known throughout the industry as SEG, represents Ten Hag and has also provided their clients with Rasmus Hojlund and Sofyan Amrabat, who proudly claim the deals as their work. The United manager’s agent, Kees Vos, is described as an “occasional visitor” at Carrington and certainly a standout whenever he has been to United’s training ground.

Those two signings at SEG must now save Ten Hag’s season: Hojlund with goals once fit enough to play regular full matches; Amrabat by joining forces with Casemiro in midfield to give United leverage.

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Ten Hag’s other two major acquisitions have a touch of the Eredivisie. Andre Onana was with his current manager at Ajax, while Mason Mount played against both on loan from Chelsea at Vitesse Arnhem. United cannot be accused of not backing their manager, whose key areas of reinforcement have been addressed with his goals.

“Look at Brighton, it’s full of free transfers and players who didn’t cost much money at all. How do you explain that gap?” Ten Hag was asked by a journalist after Brighton won convincingly at Old Trafford. Technical director David Weir was sitting in the director’s box at the end of the row in Brighton and must have watched with satisfaction.

At the other end of the scale, Brighton’s recruitment is broad and global in scope. Julio Enciso (Paraguay), Solly March (Lewes, East Sussex) and Pervis Estupinan (Ecuador via Spain) were missing as first-team players this weekend. Long-sighted Danny Welbeck led their offense and was a free agent three years ago. German midfielder Pascal Gross and Brazilian striker Joao Pedro also scored.

“My job is to help them to progress, to improve, because the club’s history must reach a level where we can get the best players like [Alexis] Mac Allister, like [Moises] Caicedo, like [Levi] Colwill,” said Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi. How United would love to have such a football ecosystem.

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Instead, United is a club with few career options outside the club itself. Players are released or sold to smaller clubs. The last player sold when he was at the peak of his powers was Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in 2009. It will break a fourteen-year trend of Hojlund becoming the striker that the Champions League heavyweights are willing to break the bank for .

Erik ten Hag brings on Anthony Martial for Hojlund against Brighton
Erik ten Hag brings on Anthony Martial for Hojlund against Brighton – a decision he was booed for – EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Adam Vaughan

However, United’s summer signings are the key to getting Ten Hag out of his predicament. He refused to call it a crisis when he spoke after the Brighton defeat, but it was a performance that was full of unrest.

How will they do it? Hojlund’s fitness is important. He is currently unable to play 90 minutes due to a back injury. He had a goal disallowed against Brighton, but he would have wanted more impactful action in the build-up. Fans mocked the decision to replace him in the second half, but in reality he was taken off the match by Lewis Dunk.

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Central defender is a major concern for Ten Hag. Lisandro Martinez was eliminated in three of the five games and his form is poor. Harry Maguire is waiting in the wings for a chance to impress and should definitely be worth a try at some point. Next up is Bayern Munich and the threat of Harry Kane, who has scored four goals in as many Bundesliga games.

Ten Hag’s formation against Brighton tried to fit its senior players into a system that could accommodate them all. Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen, both No. 10, operated in a diamond formation that was broken up by De Zerbi’s players. With Jadon Sancho banned, there should be a place for Facundo Pellitri or Alejandro Garnacho to provide real width.

Amrabat and Casemiro will help take control of the midfield, with the Moroccan loan signing tightening up an area that players can currently move through. After four years in Italy, it is up to Amrabat to quickly adapt to the pace of the Premier League.

Ten Hag returns to Bayern this week, where he was in charge of the second series of the German winning machine between 2013 and 2015. As United manager, it could have been a glorious return for his opening Champions League match. Instead, it’s a return that finds his old employers facing a team in crisis.

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