When it comes to the art of laying the foundations to compete for silverware, boasting a good home record is something that usually helps.
This season, between them, Liverpool and Manchester City have lost just two Premier League home games, with City suffering both defeats. Manchester United, by comparison, have lost four times in the league on their own patch, providing just one nugget of evidence as to why they are currently light-years behind the title contenders.
Those who have visited Old Trafford week in, week out this season will have become familiar with the sight of seeing visiting supporters enjoying themselves in the away end. That is because United have been nowhere near good enough on their own patch this term.
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Including penalty shootout defeats, United have lost seven of their 26 home games in all competitions this season. At first glance, a record of seven defeats in 26 games does not seem too bad. But it is when you dive a little deeper into the manner of each of those defeats that the reality of just how poor they’ve been at Old Trafford this season hits home.
As well as being beaten four times in the Premier League at Old Trafford – including the embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Liverpool in October – United also crashed out of all three cup competitions at Old Trafford. West Ham United knocked them out of the Carabao Cup, Middlesbrough, on penalties, dumped them out of the FA Cup and Atletico Madrid ended their hopes of a trophy by sending them packing in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that United’s supporters have not had much to shout about this season, is it? Correcting it will be another challenge on a long list of problems that incoming manager Erik ten Hag has got to face.
The size of the job awaiting the Dutchman, as has been well-documented, is enormous; the squad is in desperate need of a reset, a fresh style of play needs implementing and a big culture change needs to take shape. There is no quick-fix to the job Ten Hag is embarking on.
However, if he can turn Old Trafford anywhere remotely close to the fortress it once was, it will be a strong first step in trying to turn United back into a competitive force. The importance of having a good home form cannot be underestimated. Just ask Liverpool and City.
But United will need the supporters to play their part. That, however, works both ways, meaning the players will have to produce entertaining, pleasing-on-the-eye football to create a positive and vibrant atmosphere that they can then respond to on the pitch.
There have been occasions this season where the supporters have turned on the team and individual players. That does not help anyone and Ten Hag needs to ensure that those moments are nothing more than a distant memory next season and beyond.
This summer’s recruitment drive will, of course, play a big part in how well-positioned United are to turn Old Trafford back into a fortress from the start of the season. But if the club gets it right and provides Ten Hag with the tools he needs, he could soon tick off the first box on his to-do list.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.