In pictures: Manchester United V Luton Town
Manchester United made sure to avoid a run of three consecutive defeats at Old Trafford after beating Luton Town 1-0 on Saturday afternoon to lift the pressure on Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman had been tipped to get sacked after losing nine of his first 18 matches this season, but Victor Lindelof’s close-range strike ensured the Red Devils would not experience another morale-damaging loss at home. However, there are still some residual issues for Ten Hag before the international break, as Express Sport assesses the talking points from their slender victory.
Hojlund nightmare goes on
Harry Kane must be relieved that he decided to head to Germany and not a few hundred miles north this summer after leaving Tottenham. United were keen to sign the England international after bagging 30 goals in the Premier League last season, but eventually both parties decided to go in different directions.
At the same as Kane scored his 16th and 17th goals of the Bundesliga campaign for Bayern Munich in a 4-2 win over Heidenheim at the Allianz Arena, United were watching their £72m summer signing Hojlund squander simple chances against minnows Luton.
The Dane has scored five times in the Champions League this season but, incredibly, is yet to get off the mark in domestic competition. Only a fine point-blank save from Thomas Kaminski died him on this occasion, while his glancing header should have found the back of the net in the second half. Ten Hag would only be human for questioning his decision not to sign Kane for a younger version in Hojlund, but the 53-year-old must keep faith in the struggling Dane.
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Alarming stat highlights United issue
It is an indictment of United’s problems this season that of all of the players to find a winner against Luton, it was their third-choice centre-back Lindelof who produced the goods. But worse than that is the fact their centre-backs have now scored three times as many goals as their strikers.
Hojlund, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have all really struggled in front of goal in 2023-24, with Rashford a long way off the form that saw him score 30 goals in all competitions last term.
Lindelof’s goal will please the fans who just want to see their team pick up wins at the moment, but it merely papers over the cracks. Their goal worries are becoming an issue Ten Hag can’t ignore – and he may have to solve the issue in January by bringing in another signing.
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Eriksen blow as injury worries continue
Just hours after receiving confirmation that Jonny Evans would be out for at least a month with a thigh strain, Ten Hag watched their injury crisis worsen at Old Trafford.
Christian Eriksen was forced off after 40 minutes as the Dane was replaced by Mason Mount, leaving United woefully short in the middle of the park with Casemiro ruled out until the New Year. And Hojlund limping off late on with a suspected muscle problem is a huge blow with some important matches coming.
The issue on the left side is still yet to be resolved either, with Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez absent for most of the season and Tyrell Malacia still out. That said, United’s squad is still strong enough to cope with four or five injuries and while it should be taken into account when assessing their struggles, it is not the main reason for their slump in form.
Don’t write off Luton yet
They were a few minutes away from picking up a famous win over Liverpool and spent the best part of 58 minutes frustrating Manchester United, while some will feel they should have come away with a point against Tottenham. With every Premier League game they turn up for, Luton Town are becoming a difficult team to beat – and those pre-season predictions that the Hatters would be the whipping boys of the top-flight have proved to be wide of the mark.
Their supporters almost turned Old Trafford into their temporary home, making a huge racket from the away end and chanting ‘sacked in the morning’ towards Ten Hag. Their players produced a committed performance for Rob Edwards as they do every single week and that’s all they can ask for after spending a fraction of what United did this summer.
With more performances of this kind, who is to say they can’t pull off a miracle and stay in the Premier League?
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