Man Utd must learn to give 100% in every match - collapse at Tottenham was yet another example of them taking it too easy

Bruno Fernandes Manchester United Tottenham 2022-23
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Erik ten Hag's keeps warning Manchester United's players of the need to stay focused for 90 minutes, but some just aren't getting the message

It is remarkable that it is late April and despite all the progress Manchester United have made this season, a few players do not understand that you have to play at your maximum to win matches in the Premier League.

The team have born match-winners like Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, a squad full of talented players and an excellent manager - the best since Sir Alex Ferguson.

But a lack of fight is becoming a regular theme, particularly away from home when they do not have 75,000 fans to spur them on.

And unless United can erase this propensity to switch off in games and maintain their intensity for 90 minutes, they run the risk of throwing away their place in the Premier League's top four, which is the bare minimum.

They also risk getting embarrassed in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, who since March have treated every match like it is a final.

The way United have dropped off in some games, it looks like they are still in pre-season, not the business end of the campaign.

  1. Too passive against Spurs
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    Too passive against Spurs

    After getting into half-time at Tottenham with an ideal scoreline of 2-0, United let the hosts back into the game.

    They failed to shut down Spurs' counterattacks at source high up the pitch and were too passive when their opponents got into the final third.

    For the first goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka did not get tight enough on Ivan Perisic and the Croatian was able to put a searching cross into the box which caused havoc.

    Luke Shaw bravely blocked Harry Kane’s shot but Christian Eriksen was lethargic at closing down Pedro Porro, who pulled Spurs back into contention.

    The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which had been lulled into silence until then, suddenly came alive and the Spurs players fed off their fans’ energy.

    It was now much harder for United to contain them and the hosts should have equalised twice before they eventually did so.

    Their second goal further highlighted United’s lack of concentration. Tyrell Malacia was caught out of position and was too slow to react to Spurs winning possession back in United’s half.

    Shaw, who had been outstanding for much of the game, also couldn’t get close enough to Kane to block his cross, and both Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot failed to track Son Heung-min, who equalised.

    United then showed a lack of urgency to try to get back in front and ended up settling for a draw.

  2. 'Some thought 90% was enough'

    'Some thought 90% was enough'

    Erik ten Hag did not mince his words after the game and clearly felt United had gotten too relaxed.

    "Some thought 90% was enough,” said the United manager in a damning assessment of his players.

    “We lost focus, that's why we gave balls away, we didn't do our jobs in positioning and you concede goals. It was the case with both goals, but more you lose control of the game.

    “After half-time, there was a difference because we were not secure.

    "Then you have to go into the fight and when you lose your battles, you don't go to crosses, you don't squeeze out, you don't close shots, you concede goals and that's what happened.”

  3. We saw it at Anfield and St. James' Park
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    We saw it at Anfield and St. James' Park

    United fans have heard similar words plenty of times before from Ten Hag and senior players.

    After the 7-0 humiliation against Liverpool, Ten Hag accused the players of being “unprofessional”.

    "I’m surprised to see this from our team, I don’t think it's us, I don’t think it's Manchester United,” he said when United conceded six goals in the second half, falling to the joint-worst defeat in the club’s history.

    It was the same after Newcastle, when United played nearly as badly as they had at Anfield and were very fortunate to only lose by two goals.

    "They had more desire, determination and aggression. I was surprised we couldn’t match it,” the Dutchman said at St. James’ Park.

    Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez also spoke about a lack of fight against Newcastle.

    However, it appears that a few players still haven’t got the message and it keeps on happening.

  4. The worst schedule in the Premier League
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    The worst schedule in the Premier League

    It is tempting to blame United’s relentless schedule for their propensity to switch off.

    They have played 60 matches already due to reaching the final of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and the quarter-finals of the Europa League, including having to play a play-off tie against Barcelona.

    Ten Hag called it “the worst schedule in the Premier League”, but ultimately United want to be fighting in all competitions and that inevitably means playing more.

    They need to learn how to cope with playing twice a week and still give everything.

  5. 'You have to give it on every occasion'
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    'You have to give it on every occasion'

    Man City, who United must ultimately aspire to compete with, have managed to thrive off going deep in three competitions while maintaining their intensity - although they do of course possess enviable squad depth.

    "You have to bring it every time,” Ten Hag added after the Tottenham game.

    “Although I know they are not robots. It's a tough schedule, but it can't be, we can't accept, when you are playing for Man United and wearing the shirt then you have to give it on every occasion, every game.

    "You have to prepare as a player, then you are ready for a battle and for a fight."

    Christian Eriksen also admitted his side got too comfortable.

    "I think we missed the last percentage of really taking the game and finishing it off," he told BT Sport. "I think we took a bit off the gas off and that was our problem.

    "I think it's been that for a few games where we are sharp and coming ahead and [haven't] kept it going. I think we lost a bit of energy, a bit of control and they got belief and it went the other way."

  6. Not killing teams off
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    Not killing teams off

    Giving 100% does not only mean fighting for every ball, it also means playing on the front foot and trying to kill teams off.

    Thursday’s second-half performance against Tottenham was remarkably similar to the 2-2 draw at home to Sevilla two weeks previously, when United failed to go the extra mile to win and switched off late in the game.

    “United let them off,” said former United defender Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport.

    “They had them on the ropes, if not on one knee, and didn't go for the jugular.

    "I think United will be trudging back into the changing room, disappointed. Thinking how did they not win that game?

    "You have allowed Spurs to get a foothold back into the game when really they were struggling, I think they will be hugely disappointed."