Manchester United manager Erik ten Haag sends out rallying ahead of crunch clash with Liverpool

Two games in and Erik ten Haag has seen enough. First Brighton, then Brentford. A nightmare scenario is unfolding for Manchester United’s new manager and he knows urgent action is required.

Back-to-back defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights have plunged United into an early-season crisis, and Ten Hag’s third game is the biggest in the English football calendar, against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Monday night.

Jurgen Klopp’s side humiliated their old rivals 9-0 on aggregate home and away last season, and the only consolation for Ten Hag is that it might be better to catch Liverpool early in the new campaign on the evidence of their two draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Haag has demanded that his players learn to ‘fight’

The Red Devils were embarrassed 4-0 by Brentford in their second game of the season

The Red Devils were embarrassed 4-0 by Brentford in their second game of the season

It is still a daunting challenge for a United side desperately low on confidence. Yesterday, Ten Hag demanded more fight from his players and unity from supporters to lift the 20-time champions off the bottom of the table.

The Dutchman’s furious response to a 4-0 defeat at Brentford was to haul the squad into their Carrington training base last Sunday and make them run the extra eight-and-a-half miles they lagged behind their opponents 24 hours earlier.

‘I made myself clear I was definitely not happy,’ said Ten Hag. ‘You can talk about football, you can talk about the plan or philosophy, but it starts with the basic stuff: the right attitude, a fighting attitude, and I didn’t see that from minute one.

‘You have to bring it in every game on the pitch — especially Monday night. Obviously, a lot went wrong, but we don’t have to talk about anything when the attitude isn’t right.

‘We know what’s going on when we play Liverpool. You have to be ready and to fight yourself into the season.’

United have been defeated in both of their two Premier League games at the start of this term

Even if Ten Hag can get United to stand up for themselves, he knows now that the quality is not there, either. What felt like a methodical — if largely unfruitful — transfer window for United has turned rather frantic in recent days as Ten Hag pushes his employers to bring in the players he needs before deadline day.

Offers have been going in for targets all over Europe and the transfer fees are likely to reflect United’s desperation.

Casemiro will cost £60 million from Real Madrid, for starters. United are also making the Brazilian one of their highest earners, having offered a four-year contract to a player who turns 31 in February. No wonder he fancies a new challenge.

Ten Hag would not discuss Casemiro yesterday, but Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said: ‘Listening to his wish, I don’t think there’s a way back. When he asks to try a new challenge, we have to understand him. We have to accept it with the utmost respect.’

United enduring their worst start to a term since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992

United enduring their worst start to a term since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992

Having secured a defensive midfielder after the failed bids for Frenkie de Jong and Adrien Rabiot, Ten Hag now wants at least one forward.

United are understood to have had a £68m offer for Brazil winger Antony rejected by Ten Hag’s old club Ajax, while PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo would cost closer to £35m. Christian Pulisic is another target and Chelsea’s interest in taking Harry Maguire to Stamford Bridge has added an intriguing twist to negotiations.

Ten Haag may have kept Maguire as captain, but concerns over the defender’s form going back to last season mean his place in the team to face Liverpool is in doubt.

The manager also has a big decision to make over Cristiano Ronaldo if Anthony Martial is declared fit to start following a hamstring problem. Ronaldo’s future at United is by no means guaranteed as he continues to push for a move, which has been a headache for Ten Hague almost from the moment he arrived.

‘He is in our plans, that’s what I can say,’ the manager reiterated yesterday, although it is still possible United will need a replacement for Ronaldo as well as a right back and a goalkeeper before the September 1 deadline.

Jurgen Klopp's side are winless in opening games after draws with Fulham and Crystal Palace

Jurgen Klopp’s side are winless in opening games after draws with Fulham and Crystal Palace

With the flurry of transfer activity and takeover talk sparked by news that four of the six Glazer siblings are open to selling their shares, life at United has felt like a combination of Supermarket Sweep and Succession.

Hopes, however fanciful, that the American owners might finally be selling up will give extra impetus to protests before the Liverpool game, 15 months after the same fixture was postponed as a result of anti-Glazer demonstrations.

For Ten Hag, it is about the last thing he needs right now. ‘I can only say the owners want to win, and we want the fans behind the club,’ he said. ‘I can understand sometimes, but I am not that long in the club to see all the background. We have to fight together and be unified.’

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