Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag claims injuries have been key to slump and says owners will show sympathy

Morgan Gibbs-White fired Nottingham Forest to a first victory against Manchester United since 1994 as Erik ten Hag’s side ended a topsy-turvy year with a whimper; Erik ten Hag: “We haven’t played with the same team in a row”

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said his side will work together to hit high targets and explains why they are so inconsistent

Erik ten Hag insists Manchester United’s new co-owners will understand that injuries to key personnel is the primary issue contributing to the club’s poor season.

Morgan Gibbs-White fired Nottingham Forest to a first victory against United since 1994 as Ten Hag’s side ended a topsy-turvy year with a whimper on Saturday Night Football.

The Red Devils had won the sides’ last 11 meetings in all competitions, but new boss Nuno Espirito Santo would celebrate a memorable second win in just five days.

Gibbs-White’s super late strike from the edge of the box wrapped up a memorable 2-1 triumph after Marcus Rashford had capitalised on a terrible Matt Turner pass to cancel out Nicolas Dominguez’s opener.

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  • Neville: Man Utd back to being inconsistent and awful
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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Nottingham Forest’s win against Manchester United in the Premier League

This was United’s 14th defeat in all competitions this term and a miserable end to the year for a side that were a pale imitation of the one that roared back to beat Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

When asked to pinpoint the overarching reason for United’s poor campaign, Ten Hag told Sky Sports: “The injuries. Also some issues but mainly the injuries hold us back in the process. In January we have a lot of players returning so then our levels can be higher.

“Definitely [Dave Brailsford] will see we have our problems. You want to build on the last result but we have to change our striker.”

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Gary Neville outlines what he believes needs changing at Manchester United in order to bring success to the club

Rasmus Hojlund was absent through illness and Ten Hag’s team underperformed at the City Ground, where a forgettable first half made way for a pulsating second.

Rodriguez fired Forest ahead in the 64th minute, only for under-fire Turner to see a poor pass cut out as Rashford went on to rifle home a 78th-minute leveller.

But the goalkeeper helped make amends four minutes later, denying Christian Eriksen before the hosts raced up the field and Gibbs-White slammed the hosts back ahead.

Image: Bruno Fernandes cuts a dejected figure after the defeat to Nottingham Forest

Turner held firm in stoppage time to ensure Forest beat United at home for the first time since 1992.

INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford was an interested observer alongside Sir Alex Ferguson on the banks of the Trent – and Ten Hag believes the club’s current problems were plain for all to see.

“It’s clear the result is very disappointing,” the Dutchman added. “We should have invested more in these moments. We created less before half-time. We didn’t do [enough]. The second half was better.

Image: Andre Onana gestures during the 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest

“We are losing the game by a goal and you saw the fight in the team. We had our chances, the football in the second half was better. They kept believing and going until the end but of course when the result is this, we are disappointed.

“The players are not happy with this but we have to do better. We haven’t played with the same team in a row. We had to change again so every time we have to swap our team. That doesn’t help or support the routines of the team and it explains why you are so inconsistent.

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Gary Neville remains concerned at the manner of which Manchester United keep losing, following their 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest

“We had nine different partnerships in the back. It doesn’t matter as well, the fans don’t want to hear this, they want to see us winning and that is what we have to serve them.”

When asked if he would talk with the INEOS group, Ten Hag said: “It will happen. No doubt about that. We will work together to set high targets of course for achievements and structures, we will talk about that.”

Neville: United are back to being inconsistent and awful

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Following Manchester United’s 2-1 loss at Nottingham Forest, Gary Neville once again criticised the club’s recent recruitment under Erik ten Hag

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:

“Manchester United are back to what they are – inconsistent and awful. They walk off the pitch a defeated bunch. United fans behind the goal will go off so disappointed. Manchester United are back to their worst.

“I’m not really sure what this team is. It’s a very difficult watch. I think everyone accepted that Erik ten Hag did a very good job in his first season.

“With the new ownership, Sir Dave Brailsford’s going to be on a watching brief, week in, week out now. We’re going to see him appear there in the directors’ box.

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Following Manchester United’s defeat to Nottingham Forest, Gary Neville discusses the future of manager Erik ten Hag

“He’s going to look at what this club is, on and off the pitch. What he’s seeing at this moment in time he isn’t going to like, along with all the fans behind the goal who travelled to Nottingham today.

“Ten Hag needs his players back – [Lisandro] Martinez, [Harry] Maguire, Casemiro, [Rasmus] Hojlund, Luke Shaw… and he needs to somehow finish the season strongly.

“But it’s been a really up-and-down season. It’s more down than up. Some of these performances are really, really poor. Well below anything that should be required at this level.”

Redknapp: Man Utd horrible to watch

Image: Manchester United succumbed to another defeat on Saturday

Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp:

“It’s a massive win for Forest but, to be honest, coming here today I didn’t think it would be anything other than a Forest win.

“Manchester United are so inconsistent. They are horrible to watch. They have no real appetite, desire, it looks like they are playing under duress. There’s not enough ambition or desire.”

Man Utd’s defeat in stats

Image: Marcus Rashford reacts to defeat against Nottingham Forest

  • Manchester United have lost 21 games in all competitions in 2023 – only in 1930 (28), 1972 (25) and 1921 (24) have they ever lost more in a calendar year.
  • Nottingham Forest have won consecutive Premier League games for the first time since January. Indeed, they’d won just one of their previous 14 before this.
  • This result ended Manchester United’s 11-game winning run against Nottingham Forest in all competitions, while it’s the first time they’ve lost their final Premier League game in a calendar year since 2011 (2-3 v Blackburn Rovers).
  • Manchester United have lost as many as nine of their opening 20 league games to a season for the first time since 1989-90. Indeed, their nine defeats so far this term is as many as they suffered in the whole of 2022-23.
  • Anthony Elanga has been involved in four goals in his last three Premier League games (1 goal, 3 assists), while he’s had a hand in more goals than any other Nottingham Forest player this season (10 – 4 goals, 6 assists).

What’s next?

Nottingham Forest are next in action when hosting Championship side Blackpool in the FA Cup on January 7, before a trip to Brentford beckons when Premier League duty resumes on January 20, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.

Manchester United‘s respective FA Cup third round tie takes place on January 8 against Wigan Athletic, before hosting Tottenham live on Super Sunday on January 14; kick-off 4.30pm.


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