Today’s Tales: Ten Hag Grossed out by United display as Trent suffers from dry pitch syndrome

Erik ten Hag Gross

It’s back folks, it’s back. What feels like a mere fortnight since Man City lifted last season’s Premier League title and we’re back again.

Not a lot has changed to be honest. Man United are still rubbish. King Klopp is still finding bizarre things to blame when his team don’t do well. Tottenham and Arsenal both think “this might be the season”.

And we love it, don’t we?

Up at Old Trafford, Erik ten Hag was totally Grossed out by Manchester United’s performance against Brighton. I mean, the clues were there after 20 seconds really. Diogo Dalot took a sloppy touch, Leonardo Trossard stole the ball and shot just wide.

You could argue it was a genius move by Ten Hag – making sure that expectations went even lower than before in the first half so that he could only start to look like a genius when they came out and won it in the second half. You can understand the plan – there was a time that United going into the break 2-0 down pretty much guaranteed they’d come out and win 3-2, somehow. Not nowadays, that’s for sure – even if they were a lot better after the break.

There was a certain irony at United having to go into this game without a proper striker – and watching Danny Welbeck, deemed not good enough anymore for the Red Devils several years ago, making muppets out of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez.

On the bench, Cristiano Ronaldo wore the expression of a man saying “and you wonder why I want to leave?” and to be fair, even he couldn’t be blamed for this one.

But then, what do you expect when you choose to go into the match keeping Maguire as captain despite his form falling quicker than the Conservatives’ faith in Boris Johnson to organise a drinks party in a brewery? And a strike force that has a children’s author and a guy that had a heart attack just over a year ago? No offence, Christian, you know.

United’s performance meant that it was around the 35th minute when even the most anti-Ronaldo voices started to say he should probably be coming on soon. And he was into the action shortly into the second half as Ten Hag opted for an old Alex Ferguson ploy – throw as many attacking players on to the field as possible and hope for the best.

And come the full-time whistle, I was half expecting ETH to remove a mask and reveal himself to be Ralf Rangnick.

No matter how bad United were in the first half, Brighton were very good throughout. In Caceido, they had the kind of midfielder that the Glaziers needed to sign years ago. 

Jurgen Klopp is right, after all. It must have been a “dry pitch” that meant Trent Alexander-Arnold shrunk 30 centimetres at the far post as Big Mitro headed Fulham ahead at Craven Cottage.

It was mentioned last week that nobody should read too much into the fact that Klopp’s mentality monsters won the Community Shield at Wembley. It was clear within three minutes that Fulham were taking this one just a little more seriously than City took the glorified pre-season friendly last weekend.

Marco Silva’s side had a real go at the title wannabes and Mitrovic, aside from bullying England’s most bestest of world-class right backs, also made a bit of a muggins of Virgil van Dijk too – winning the penalty that the big Serb converted.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Liverpool, though. Darwin Nunez looked as dangerous as he does pretty and his first real touch was a backheel flick into the net. He also laid on Mo Salah’s customary opening day goal, albeit if it was a poor touch that happened to land to the Egyptian.

Klopp, as well as blaming the pitch, also said he was 12/10 unhappy with the performance. You can understand why – a team that almost everyone is tipping to go down put the wind up the Reds. They won’t be that bad again, will they?

Whilst United were making fools of themselves and Liverpool had an off day, Peppy G was able to sit back serenely has City picked up their customary three points at the London Stadium.

Positives for West Ham? 55,000 season tickets sold. 62,000 plus in attendance, some of which had a good view of Erling Haaland making his Premier League debut for the champions and doing exactly what was expected after last weekend – scoring and generally looking a bit of a handful. The other positive? They only have to play City once more in the league this season.

I’ll admit, I found a lot of Man City’s performance far less bright than that shocking away kit they were wearing. It was all a bit easy, a bit slow – until they fancied scoring of course, then it was warp speed.

Haaland scored two after the penny clicked for City’s creators – he needs the ball to be able to score. Twice he was played in behind, twice goals followed – the first after he won a clear penalty and scored it, the second after he ran in behind and the West Ham players started lining up for the kick-off before he’d even finished it was that obvious what was coming.

Nunez might have won the first head-to-head of the massive money strikers, but there is no doubt at all that Haaland took round two.

The thing I disliked most about City’s performance in London? Joao Cancelo wearing number 7. And yes, I know he spent most of his time playing centre mid with Kyle Walker. It’s still not cool.

What’s this? Tottenham winning 4-1 on the opening day of the season and neither Harry Kane (no real shock, it’s August) and Heung-Min Son scored? Frank Lampard might be many people’s favourite to get the Premier League chop first this season but I’m going with Ralph Hassenhuttl which will be a shame – we’ll lose that snazzy pitchside attire he flipped to in the middle of last season and is still going with this campaign.

I like Hassenhuttl, but you do worry how many more complete batterings he can survive before the new owners believe they can probably do a bit better.

Antonio Conte will have been delighted – Spurs went behind and then fought like dogs to turn it around. Can they mount a title challenge? If that’s what finishing third this season looks like, yes.

I spent most of last week wondering whether Mikel Arteta watched “All or Nothing” and spent most of the time cringing. Is it possible for anyone to come out of these fly-on-the-wall not looking like David Brent but with better hair?

Fortunately, the only thing that would distract most people from that car-crash of an opening episode would be three points on Friday night against Crystal Palace. The Gunners duly delivered, Gabby Jesus looking very bright on debut. William Saliba also somehow made the crazy plan to sign him for £30m and then loan him out for what felt like the next five seasons look like a great call. He was very assured as Arsenal beat Patrick Vieira’s side 2-0.

I am starting to find Thomas Tuchel quite curious. In signing Raheem Sterling, he bought one of the most dangerous wide left forwards in world football, someone who almost guarantees 20 to 25 goals a season from that position. He is also a very average false 9. In Kai Havertz, he has one of the best false 9s in the game. Havertz is also a very average wide left forward. So guess how Tommy T lined them up against Everton? Yep.

There wasn’t a proper striker to be seen for miles at Goodison Park as Lampard also had to play a winger through the middle after Dominic Calvert-Lewin picked up yet another knock in training.

As a result, there wasn’t much goalmouth action either – even with there being about 18 minutes injury time in the whole match. Most of this came from Ben Godfrey fracturing his leg in several places, racing back to cover yet another moment of Jordan Pickford madness. Just let it go out for the corner, Jordan. You were never going to get there.

Doucoure must have not noticed the bearhug he gave Ben Chilwell that led to Chelsea’s penalty, such were his protestations of innocence. Jorginho scored this one – the commentators making much of the fact he missed his last one against Pickford (as if that mattered, given Italy won the shootout).

It wasn’t much of a game, but that’s how Chelsea used to win most of their games when they used to win the Premier League.

So, Bournemouth are going down, are they? Not based on that performance. Scotty Parker has obviously learned that having a mammoth number 9 in the Premier League isn’t dirty after he left Mitro on the bench for the entire season that Fulham got relegated last time. Big Keifer Moore is a Premier League goalscorer and Aston Villa were utterly awful.

Steven Gerrard laid into his players post-match and I was left wondering when was the last time Philippe Coutinho actually played well in a Villa shirt?

So, Leeds are going down, are they? Yep, the irony of all three teams I predicted to get relegated this season getting through the weekend unbeaten is not lost on me – but then anyone foolish enough to have been reading this rubbish over the years knows I get it right as often as Maguire looks like an international defender. Fulham were my other pick, if interested.

Leeds outfought Wolves on and off the pitch and thoroughly deserved their 2-1 win. Patrick Bamford was rewarded with the captain’s armband for the game, presumably for just being fit for once.

Leicester went into a game of football without Kasper Schmeichel a permanent fixture in goal for the first time in a very long time. Without any signings at all, brave considering how average they ended up being last season, Rodgers’ side led Brentford 2-0 before doing exactly what they did loads last season and giving it all away. Ivan Toney and Jay Da Silva made the most of the Foxes’ inability to close matches out and nicked a 2-2 draw.

Up at St James’ Park, Calum Wilson is the opening day opposite of Harry Kane. Wilson scored yet another in the first weekend of football as Newcastle beat newly promoted Nottingham Forest (I’ve predicted them to stay up) 2-0. Having spent the week slating Man United for wasting a year of his life, it was quite nice to see Fabian Scharr humble Dean Henderson with an absolute thunderbolt from distance.

What else happened in football last week? Well, Chelsea spanked £60m on a Brighton left-back who City wanted and has only played just under a year of Premier League matches. Man United realised the answer to their problem striker who kills team morale is to try and buy Marko Arnautovic. Callum Hudson-Odoi wants out of Chelsea if he can’t even get on a nine-man bench and fancies moving to Leicester on loan. Chelsea still want Frenkie De Jong as they can’t come up with their own transfer targets and Barcelona (yes, really) have agreed a deal for Marcos Alonso even though they cannot register most of their summer signings because La Liga are quite picky about wage caps and things like that.

Back next week!