New season, same old Manchester United – and a few clues as to what’s coming next.
The result was poor and the performance was disappointing, but for the United fans, it was the worst part of Sunday 2-1 loss to Brighton There was not much indication of change that would take place under Erik ten Hag.
You have to be careful not to get carried away when you’re analyzing any side in the opening weekend of the season, especially when it’s the coach’s first game with his new team.
I am a firm believer that even the best coaches with the best ideas take time to implement them successfully in the Premier League.
But, in a United scenario, fans usually want to see what their new boss is working on and get an idea of what kind of playing style he wants to implement.
If things don’t go right on the pitch right away, you’re more forgiving, but still expect to see some signs of how they all hold together, when all is well.
However, there were not many of those banners at Old Trafford. Instead, I felt there was a lot of cross wires in the first match of Teen Hag.
This was supposed to be a fresh start for Manchester United, but the goals he conceded against The Seagulls were a reminder of why last season was so bad, when it was so easy to play in and left plenty of room for the opponents.
But even without thinking about what went wrong every time Pascal Gross scored, there didn’t seem to be a clear idea of what United were trying to do.
United are starting to doubt themselves
You should give Brighton credit here too, of course. Graham Potter’s side is a good team that feels comfortable in the way they play, and they pressed United very well.
There were early times in the game when United tried to play from behind, but they quickly lost their confidence when they lost the ball.
They started to doubt themselves and started going long even though they didn’t have the attacking heart to beat.
I’m sure Ten Hag wanted them to play more but they got lost and being late only made things worse.
At 2-0 down they were left a mountain to climb, and although they did much better in the second half, when Christian Eriksen fell deeper and grabbed the ball, it was hard to say they deserved anything from the match.
United need a link man – and a new striker too?
You can see why Ten Hag is trying so hard to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona.
He obviously wants someone at the base of midfield who feels comfortable getting the ball out of the defenders and connecting play.
And depending on what happens with Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not quite fit but came off the bench in the second half on Sunday, they may need a new striker as well.
No matter how United play, they need a focal point for their attack, and they didn’t have that against Brighton.
So there may be a few new faces arriving at Old Trafford before the transfer window ends, but let’s not forget that Tin Hag is still learning about his current squad as well.
Tin Hag needs to know who to trust
Tin Hag will have found out more about his players in those 90 minutes on Sunday than in the 40 days he worked with them before.
There are several ways in which pre-season matches are completely different from playing a competitive match in the Premier League. Dealing with stress is just one of them.
If you have, say, a manager like Ten Hag who wants to build from behind, you’ll do it more confidently in a friendly because you know mistakes don’t really matter.
When you play a misplaced pass inside your own half in front of 70,000 of your fans at Old Trafford, it’s very different. It takes a lot of courage to keep doing that.
So, while Tin Hag has seen things from his squad over the summer, he’s only beginning to see the real personality of his players now that the season is getting real.
He’ll need some time to figure out who he really trusts and who he doesn’t – not to mention crack any new signings that happen later this month.
Tin Hg needs time – and its own compacts
Everyone wants to get better overnight, especially United fans who have been denied success for so long, but the truth is that won’t happen at Old Trafford.
Nine of the members of the United squad who started against Brighton were at the club last season, when their results were poor, so you can’t expect a huge or immediate change in fortune with many of the same individuals.
There was a lack of intelligence in United’s match against Brighton, but there was also a strange lack of energy at times, which I haven’t been able to fully resolve because some of them are playing for their future.
So while this is far from an ideal start for Teen Hag, he has made it clear that he will be able to bring in more new signings.
You have to give Tin Hag time to implement his ideas, and let him bring in some of his players to make them work.
Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.