Onana has been Man United's fall guy, but why not Ten Hag?

Onana has been Man United's fall guy, but why not Ten Hag?

Manchester United's defending is indefensible and that is squarely down to the manager, rather than a goalkeeper who has almost single-handedly left the team on the brink of Champions League elimination.

Life is tough right now for André Onana, the £47.2 million summer replacement for David de Gea as United's No. 1. The basic errors that led to two goals for Galatasaray's Hakim Ziyech from direct free kicks during Wednesday's 3-3 draw in Istanbul were just the latest to cost United dear.

The Cameroon international's stoppage-time penalty save from FC Copenhagen's Jordan Larsson on matchday four, which earned United their only victory in Group A, was supposed to be a moment of redemption, coming after another mistake-ridden performance in the 4-3 defeat away to Bayern Munich in the opening game. But Onana is now back to square one after his nightmare against Galatasaray.

United manager Erik ten Hag defended his goalkeeper after the game, delivering the usual comments about a team "winning together and losing together," but they were hollow words. If anything, the reason United have been so poor in the Champions League this season, and often in domestic fixtures too, is because they don't play "together" like a team.

Galatasaray's first goal was the perfect example of how dysfunctional Ten Hag's team is right now. United had overloaded players forward in attack, with Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay joining Alejandro Garnacho, Antony and Rasmus Højlund in a raid on the Galatasaray penalty area. When the attack broke down, Fernandes sprinted from one end of the pitch to the other before fouling Mauro Icardi on the edge of the United 18-yard box, conceding a free kick from which Ziyech scored past the hapless Onana.

Having given away the free-kick, Fernandes turned round and shouted his displeasure at McTominay, who had failed to run back and had left the defence exposed. If United had been more disciplined, the counter-attack could have been snuffed out and the free kick never conceded.

Højlund is the top scorer in the competition this season, on five with Erling Haaland and Álvaro Morata, but his goals have all come in defeats. So while Onana finds himself under the microscope for his costly mistakes, the fault really lies with Ten Hag for failing to correct the recurring flaws that are so damaging to United's prospects.

The former Ajax coach has changed personnel all over the pitch and made several big signings, yet the problems persist; it's either down to the players not being good enough, or Ten Hag failing to coach his team to defend as a unit. His job is to make United competitive, yet he seems to have dusted off Marcelo Bielsa's guide to defending (or lack of) and it is leaving his team wide open.

"They just cannot keep clean sheets," former United midfielder Paul Scholes told TNT Sports after the Galatasaray game. "The defence is all over the place, the keeper is making mistakes, Bruno giving away cheap free kicks. It was complete madness from start to finish.

"It's very difficult to win games away from home in Europe that way. They were still going for the throat, still trying to score goals. That's just not the way to win games in Europe. I've never seen teams go away from home in Europe, throw everything at teams and win the game. You're 2-0 up, you're 3-1 up, play your positions. Just relax."

Scholes's comments were echoed by Fernandes, the United captain, who admitted that the team's approach is not working. "I don't want to be too negative, but what we've been doing in the Champions League is not enough," Fernandes said. "We have to control our games every time. It's not the first game we've had like this."

United led at home to Galatasaray and lost, threw away a two-goal lead away to Copenhagen before losing 4-3, and then surrendered a two-goal advantage twice in Istanbul before drawing 3-3.

Onana is the joint-leader in the race for the Premier League Golden Glove this season, on five clean sheets with Crystal Palace's Sam Johnstone and Newcastle United's Nick Pope. But this only masks the overarching issues of Ten Hag's tactics. They have had similar problems in the when failing to capitalise on winning positions in the league this season, and also suffered heavy defeats under Ten Hag away to Liverpool (7-0) and Manchester City (6-3) in the last campaign.

Rather than being a new problem, United's inability to defend properly and consistently is an issue that has dogged Ten Hag's time in charge. Other coaches are intensifying the focus on his shortcomings and proving that sound tactics can make an average team difficult to beat.

The goalkeeper had another bad night, but most keepers would regard playing for this United side as a thankless task because of Ten Hag's inability to make them defend as a team.

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