Manchester United continued its rollercoaster season with an important 2-1 win against Chelsea on Wednesday.
Scott McTominay got both goals on an morale-boosting night for the host, the Scotland international scoring either side of Cole Palmer’s brilliant finish for Chelsea.
The win sends United sixth in the English Premier League – three points behind Manchester City in fourth – to keep the club in the hunt for Champions League qualification and temporarily mask a multitude of ongoing issues at the club.
Ever since Alex Ferguson left in 2013, Manchester United have struggled for consistency both on and off the pitch, bouncing from one debacle to another.
Five permanent managers have come and gone since, with Erik ten Hag the latest to try steady to ship.
Given his previously impressive work with Dutch club Ajax – where he built an exciting and successful team – many had hoped Ten Hag was finally the man to reestablish United’s dominance.
But, just like those before him, the Dutchman is not having an easy time in changing the narrative that United is a club perpetually stumbling from one crisis to the next.
In the days building up to the win over Chelsea, the club was dealing with its latest fiasco after reports of player discontent in the dressing room.
Media outlets, such as ESPN, reported that a group of players in United’s dressing room had become disillusioned with Ten Hag’s methods, after the club fell to its 10th loss of the season against Newcastle on Saturday.
As a result, the club banned four journalists from Ten Hag’s pre-match media conference, claiming they had not offered United a right of reply to the negative stories.
“They should come to us first and not go around our back printing articles. That is not the right thing,” Ten Hag said.
“If the players have a different opinion of course I will listen, but they haven’t told me, or maybe one or two, but the majority want to play like this; proactive, dynamic, brave.”
While dressing room unity is a problem Ten Hag can control, the issue of the pending takeover is not.
Reports suggest British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is on the verge of agreeing a 25% stake in the club, a deal which has been rumbling on for months since the Glazer family announced they were exploring new investment or the potential sale of the club last year.
The uncertainty around the future of the club has seemingly made its way down on the pitch, with the team’s inconsistent form undermining any sense of progression.
Nothing demonstrates this more than the team’s showing in the Champions League this season. United sit bottom of its group having won just one match so far. It will be eliminated from the tournament if it fails to beat Bayern Munich on Tuesday, or there is a winner in the other Group A game between Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
That said, United’s performance against Chelsea was among its better ones this season.
The 2-1 scoreline perhaps flattered the visitor but also pointed to United’s wastefulness in front of goal.
Ten Hag’s side had 28 shots during the game, nine of them on target, with captain Bruno Fernandes seeing his first half penalty saved by Robert Sanchez. Meanwhile striker Rasmus Højlund has still to score in the Premier League after joining United from Italian club Atalanta in August for a reported fee of $87.7 million.
It was, though, a more assured performance from Manchester United and a much-needed confidence boost for the players and fans alike.
Those supporters will hope the team can now kick on after such a precious win against Chelsea, but many will be hesitant in getting carried away given the topsy-turvy nature of United’s season so far.
The team faces Bournemouth in its next Premier League fixture on Saturday, before hosting Bayern in a must-win game in the Champions League.
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