Brighton visit Old Trafford, the last and only team to have beaten the Dutchman&aposs Reds in a Premier League game on their own turf. That day United fell two goals down, rallied after the break but ultimately came up short. It was far from a perfect performance and left Ten Hag with plenty to ponder.
Some of the issues were painfully obvious: What to do with Cristiano Ronaldo? Why is Christian Eriksen playing as a false nine? – and some were more nuanced: Do United have a mentality issue? Are the players capable of carrying out the manager&aposs game plan?
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Ten Hag has solved some of those day-one dramas, others still remain. His firm hand with Ronaldo ended the Portugal star&aposs second spell prematurely and the signing of Rasmus Hojlund provides the profile of player the Dutchman wants to lead his line.
United&aposs transfer business in the summer has helped Ten Hag shape a side more in his identity and improved the quality. Mason Mount and Sofyan Amrabat are better players than Fred and Scott McTominay. Even Donny Van den Beek got the final quarter off the bench when Brighton last visited Old Trafford, now he&aposs so far down the pecking order it&aposs difficult to see him playing that many minutes all season.
In goal, United have upgraded to Andre Onana who looks the part and can certainly play his part in revamping the Reds&apos ability to build from the back. Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are an experienced and commanding first choice centre-back pairing, with the liability that Harry Maguire had become now pushed to the fringes.
But Brighton exposed the fragility in United last August and there remains a fear the Seagulls could do so again on Saturday. The Reds had a soft underbelly last term, conceded poor goals and on opening day 13 months ago displayed the first signs of a worrying mentality that would plague their season against the league&aposs leading lights.
Many of those questions remain unanswered. United have yet to convince this season, folded after going behind to Tottenham, were fortunate to beat Wolves and had to respond from going two down in the blink of an eye to Nottingham Forest. Against Arsenal last time out they played their part and on another day could have won the game, but they ultimately came up short on quality and cohesion.
After Brighton won at Old Trafford last season, Ten Hag said: “We dropped down a level, we dropped down in belief and we made mistakes. They (the players) have to deal with setbacks and give themselves belief. When you form a constructive team you will play well.”
United have shown they can do just that, you don&apost win the Carabao Cup and finish third in the Premier League without ability and attitude. But they haven&apost managed to do so consistently enough across a campaign for the doubts to subside.
The Reds have opened this campaign with back-to-back home victories and if they can collect another this weekend, against a step-up in opposition, it will be a vital staging post to proving the lessons of last season have been learned.
The transfer window will soon close and although United got their hands on three players well in advance of the September 1 deadline, with Rasmus Hojlund joining Mason Mount and Andre Onana at Old Trafford, activity has stalled since Hojlund&aposs announcement.
A goalkeeper, a midfielder and a striker were Erik ten Hag&aposs priorities heading into the summer window, but injuries early on in the season mean United are in need of further reinforcements.
Our team of experts will be on top of all the goings-on at Old Trafford for the remainder of the window and beyond, and you can get the latest updates and inside information to your phone by joining our new free WhatsApp community below.