Erik ten Hag and his Manchester United players will gather on Monday to pick the bones out of the shock 7-0 drubbing at Liverpool.
Erik ten Hag will gather Manchester United’s players on Monday and give them the chance to explain the abject performance that resulted in a 7-0 thumping by Liverpool at Anfield.
After the heaviest defeat of the Dutchman’s 481-game coaching career, Ten Hag suggested the immediate dressing-room debrief was all one way as he laid down a few home truths.
He repeatedly described United’s display as “unprofessional” in interviews after the final whistle, and it was a chastening low just seven days after the high of winning the EFL Cup at Wembley.
The Red Devils have conceded 21 goals in five league games against Liverpool, and they have never lost a competitive fixture by a wider margin than seven goals, with Sunday’s result sitting alongside 7-0 losses to Wolves, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers, each of which happened in a rocky spell from 1926 to 1931.
Former Ajax boss Ten Hag is learning about his players week by week, with this being his first season in the United job.
He was staggered by their reluctance to defend and track back in the second half against Liverpool, with goals from Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez just before and after half-time giving the hosts a 2-0 lead and knocking the stuffing out of United.
Ten Hag said: “As a team, you have to stick together, and that is what we didn’t do. It was a surprise for me. I haven’t seen this from my team and I don’t think it’s us, I don’t think it’s Manchester United. So it’s really bad and poor.”
Asked if the players had provided any explanation for the second-half collapse, Ten Hag said: “I didn’t give them the chance till now. I’ve given my opinion about it, we will talk about it tomorrow. But I know this team will reset and we have to bounce back.
“There are many things that make me angry, but to concede goals so easily is definitely one of them.”
Liverpool celebrated Mohamed Salah becoming their record Premier League scorer, as he helped himself to two goals in the second half, also becoming the first Reds player to score in six consecutive appearances against United.
With 22 goals and 11 assists across all competitions, Salah is the only Premier League player to post 20-plus goals and 10-plus assists this season, and two of those assists came in this game.
It may have stung that two goals also came from Gakpo, the Netherlands international who was linked as a United target before leaving PSV for Liverpool in January.
Ten Hag’s long coaching career has not always been a smooth ride, as he acknowledged, and this ranked as one of the bumpiest afternoons of his time on the touchline.
He said: “I have had some bad days, but also other days if you do the right things, if you react with the right measures as a manager and as a team, then you can learn a lot from it, and you can strengthen your mentality.
“If it was more often of course then it’s a pattern, but we had so many good results in the last weeks, months, so many good performances. This was a really bad performance and I talk about the second half, because in the first half I thought the team played really decent.”
That was fair comment, given United troubled Liverpool on several occasions before Gakpo scored, the breakthrough goal arguably arriving against the run of play.
Conceding six goals in the second half is something that, until this game, had not happened to any Premier League side for almost 10 years.
The last to suffer the indignation had been Fulham at Hull City in December 2013, with the Cottagers going down 6-0 in East Yorkshire.
Only one team in Premier League history have conceded more in the second half of a game, with Wigan shipping eight after the interval against Tottenham in a 9-1 defeat at White Hart Lane in November 2009, Jermain Defoe getting five of the eight.