Erik ten Hag is right and wrong about solving Manchester United’s biggest problem – Steven Railston

Alejandro Garnacho thought his goal in the 88th minute was United&aposs matchwinner, only for VAR to review and disallow it. Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes had managed to avoid playing him onside but only by a matter of inches.

The beauty of elite sport is the ruthlessness of fine margins and Arsenal went back up the other end to score through Declan Rice before rubbing salt in the wounds by making it 3-1 with a Gabriel Jesus goal with seconds remaining.

Those fine margins didn&apost feel very beautiful for those of a red persuasion on Sunday night. The travelling away support returned to Manchester feeling deflated and that&aposs something they&aposve got used to with Erik ten Hag in charge.

There&aposs no way of dressing it up: United&aposs away record under Ten Hag is abysmal. The results at Old Trafford have been brilliant during his tenure, but there&aposs clearly an issue when playing on the road and it&aposs spilt into the new season.

Ten Hag played down the problem away from Old Trafford for large parts of last term, but he could no longer deny the fact by the end of the campaign and he said improving away results was a target prior to facing Tottenham last month.

Well, this is one of the aims we have for this season, that we have to step up in away games to get more points, to bring higher levels, because that is the foundation for, of course, for more points, said Ten Hag.

So, its often to do with the personality [of the players]. So yeah, thats the demand from me on the players and that we have to show more personality on the pitch to win such games. And so to get more points in away games.

Tottenham comfortably defeated United 2-0 after those comments and a visit to Arsenal was the next away game. The away results against decent sides show no sign of improving and the record from last season is sobering when laid bare.

United took just a single point from their 2022/23 fixtures on the road against the Premier League&aposs top-nine sides and that looks worse when scrutinised further, as they only defeated Fulham, Wolves and Bournemouth outside the bottom five clubs.

The team became flat-track bullies last season and that was emphasised by their brutal, lifeless performances on the road against Manchester City, Liverpool and Newcastle, three of the worst results of the entire campaign.

United did not win a game against traditional &aposBig Six&apos clubs away from home last term and they took just two points from that run of games thanks to a late draw against Chelsea and Stamford Bridge and a draw versus Tottenham.

The manner in which those two points were secured added to the concern. The point against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge was won through a dramatic, last-minute Casemiro equaliser, whilst the game was thrown away against Tottenham.

This is a team that went an entire league season away from home as recently as 2020/21. The caveat is that campaign was played behind closed doors and that suggests there&aposs merit to the players&apos personalities being questioned.

Speaking just a few weeks ago, Ten Hag said poor away results can be explained by a lack of personality shown on the pitch and that seems a fair assessment considering this dressing room has a tendency to be unnerved by raucous atmospheres.

It would be naive to solely place the blame for the problem on personality, though. Ten Hag must take his share of the blame because he&aposs the person responsible for signing personnel, setting up the team and for the tactics in such games.

United came within a matter of inches of defeating Arsenal and the narrative this week would have inevitably been different if Garnacho hadn&apost been offside, but moments ultimately decide games and another loss was suffered.

In terms of the performance itself, it was the best United had played defensively this season, although the attack failed to click again and that&aposs something Ten Hag must address if the away record is to eventually improve.