Crystal Palace 4 Manchester United 0: Ten Hag’s unwanted record – and what next for the manager?

Where do Manchester United go from here?

A glut of injuries meant Erik ten Hag’s side had to line up with Casemiro and Jonny Evans at centre-back but the manner of this defeat will cut deep. They were second best across the pitch and Palace could and should have won more comfortably.

Michael Olise made look Casemiro look silly in the 13th minute before striding forward, unchallenged, to open the scoring. Jean-Philippe Mateta made it 2-0 five minutes before the break when Jonny Evans, 36, was exposed.

Tyrick Mitchell added a third after 58 minutes before Olise scored his second stunning goal of the evening eight minutes later.

There is much to ponder for Ten Hag and INEOS, now in charge of the football operations at United, heading into the summer.

The Athletic analyses another depressing match for United.

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What has happened to United’s centre-backs?

Jonny Evans and Casemiro became United’s 14th centre-back pairing of the Premier League season. Evans only returned to training last week after recovering from a short-term muscle injury and started the game in central defence alongside Casemiro, dropping back from his usual midfield position.

Harry Maguire sustained a muscle injury in training last week and is expected to be out for the rest of the Premier League campaign, and his absence was notable.

It took all of 13 minutes for Crystal Palace to exploit Ten Hag’s makeshift defence, with Olise skipping past Casemiro, who lunged in and was left on the floor, before opening the scoring.

Shortly before half-time, it was Evans’ turn to be the victim of another Palace attack as Mateta skipped past him before doubling the home team’s lead.

The inconsistency at the back this season is in stark contrast to last year, with Ten Hag only needing six different centre-back partnerships on the club’s way to keeping 18 top-flight clean sheets, which was more than any other team.


Casemiro struggled at centre-back (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane started 16 times in 2022-23. United’s most prolific partnership this campaign is Evans and Varane, who have played next to each other six times.

United have now conceded 81 goals in all competitions, the most they have shipped since the 1976-77 season.

A record United did not need

This defeat was United’s 13th loss of the Premier League season, which is a record. It is also the first time Crystal Palace have completed the double over United in the league.

They lost 12 league games during the 2013-14 campaign, their first of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, which started with David Moyes in charge and ended with Ryan Giggs taking over after Moyes was dismissed.

That record was matched in 2021-22, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked and Ralf Rangnick arriving on an interim basis.

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Rasmus Hojlund’s body language says it all at Selhurst Park (Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

However, it has now been beaten by Ten Hag, who will no doubt point to the injuries United have sustained as a reason for their struggles, but it is a damning indictment on a season that has failed to deliver Champions League qualification.

United still need to play Arsenal and Newcastle United at Old Trafford before travelling to Brighton & Hove Albion, so there is every chance they extend the record beyond 13 defeats.

What does future hold for Ten Hag?

With every defeat United suffer between now and the end of the season, the pressure on Ten Hag is only going to increase.

In a season littered with low moments, they somehow managed to reach a new low with their performance at Selhurst Park — but it can still get worse. The prospect of playing Manchester City in the FA Cup final on May 25 is not an exciting one.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s new co-owner, has a decision to make in the summer when it comes to Ten Hag, and the Dutchman is not doing himself any favours when it comes to putting his case to stay forward.

As Olise scored his second of the match and Palace’s fourth of the night, United’s manager just stood there, hands in his pockets, and shook his head. It was a look of resignation.


Ten Hag was motionless as the goals flew in for Palace (Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images)

United were out-thought, out-fought and humiliated by a team in the bottom half of the Premier League table. Jean-Claude Blanc, United’s interim CEO, was at Selhurst Park and will no doubt report back to Ratcliffe about the shambolic performance he witnessed.

If it were not so close to the season ending, it would be fair to speculate on whether any United manager would survive this run of form.

Time must surely be ticking on Ten Hag’s tenure in charge at Old Trafford.

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What did Erik ten Hag say?

When asked if he was the right man to lead United next season, he told Sky Sports: “Absolutely. The right players are here and when we have them available we have a good squad. We are missing almost a whole backline and then we have problems. 

“It’s by far not good enough, so we are very disappointed.The fans were the whole game behind us and we should’ve kept fighting like the fans did.

On the dreadful defending for the first goal, he said: “We had five players, that’s a goal that shouldn’t happen because we really give clear instructions how we should defend this. They didn’t bring it on the pitch and we got hammered.”

What next for United?

Sunday, May 12: Arsenal (H), Premier League, 4.30pm BST, 11.30am ET

Historically, this Premier League fixture has usually seen two title favourites going head to head in a combustible clash. But these days, only the north Londoners are hoping to boost their title hopes.

Despite United losing the reverse fixture at the Emirates — two goals in added time saw the home side to a 3-1 win — they have an excellent record against Arsenal at Old Trafford, winning 18 out of 31 matches, drawing nine and losing only four times.

Despite the speculation surrounding Marcus Rashford, don’t be surprised to see him on the scoresheet. The Englishman has scored four Premier League goals against Arsenal at Old Trafford, with only Wayne Rooney (six) registering more.

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(Top photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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