MANCHESTER, England — After back-to-back wins, it’s back to the drawing board for Manchester United.
Erik ten Hag’s struggling team suffered a fifth defeat in nine games as Joachim Andersen fired Crystal Palace to a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.
Boos rang around the stadium after the final whistle as a solemn-faced Ten Hag made his way to the locker room in the Manchester rain.
“I understand (the fans),” the United manager said afterward. “When we play at home or away and we play Crystal Palace, we have to win. With all respect, I know every game in is very difficult, you have to play your best and I understand fans expecting a win and we didn’t win. We lost.”
So much for the optimistic words from the Dutchman in his pre-game program notes when he spoke of his team taking “another step forward” following the midweek win against Palace in the English League Cup.
That victory came after United had also beaten Burnley in the league. But Andersen’s first-half strike, when lashing Eberechi Eze’s free kick past Andre Onana, put a halt to United’s recent revival and raised fresh questions about its prospects this season.
Ten Hag is struggling to find consistency after leading the club back into the Champions League last season and delivering a first piece of silverware in six years when winning the League Cup.
“The demand is we get a row of wins … and we have to do better than we do now,” Ten Hag said.
This latest loss typified United’s fragility after going behind for the fourth time in six league games this term. It is also successive defeats at home in the league, following the 3-1 loss to Brighton earlier this month.
There had been signs of United’s troubles easing after the recent wins against Burnley and Palace.
Antony is back in contention after taking leave of absence to address allegations of domestic abuse, while summer signing Mason Mount is fit again.
Mount was one of four starters for United on Saturday who had joined during the off-season, along with Onana, Sofyan Amrabat and Rasmus Hojlund.
Confidence was high after United had comfortably beaten Palace on Tuesday when the Londoners’ manager Roy Hodgson had benched a number of regular starters.
Marc Guehi, Eze and Andersen were among the players back in the team that included six changes. And it was Andersen who fired Palace in front in the 25th.
Before that United had come close to taking the lead in the 12th when Hojlund flicked a shot past onrushing goalkeeper Sam Johnstone. But as he waited to see the ball cross the line, Tyrick Mitchell raced back to clear and deny the Danish striker his first goal at Old Trafford.
Trailing at halftime, United pressed for an equalizer. Bruno Fernandes forced a flying save from Johnstone with a long-range effort and Hojlund’s header had the ‘keeper in action again as he parried the effort away.
Mount should have found the back of the net with a close-range header that went over the bar and Guehi was close to scoring an own-goal when deflecting substitute Alejandro Garnacho’s cross.
Garnacho also saw a late effort deflected wide before the whistle blew on another frustrating day for Ten Hag.
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