Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has been made aware of a major flaw in his team following their loss to Nottingham Forest. Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown noticed a weakness that involved both Kobbie Mainoo and Scott McTominay.
Forest beat United 2-1 at the City Ground to pile more misery on Ten Hag. It was the Red Devils’ ninth Premier League defeat of the season and 14th in all competitions.
Mainoo started in defensive midfield, with Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes also lining up in the middle of the park. But Keown’s analysis picked up that Forest were often able to exploit a hole left by the United youngster.
Forest didn’t score when Mainoo was on the pitch, with him replaced by McTominay at half-time. But the warning signs were already there for the visitors.
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Keown said on Match of the Day: “Well I think there’s a flaw in what Manchester United do with their shape. When they lose possession in the transition, they don’t have a player that sits in front of their back four.
“It’s Mainoo today. This is the shape and Mainoo has got to sit there on his own, he has to drop into the back to form a back three, and [Nicolas] Dominguez and Gibbs-White had a field day in that area, they really did.
“They were outstanding in what they did but they exploited it. This is the first minute of the game. Mainoo’s on the backline so there’s no one sitting in that area, no one protecting.
“It’s very early on, it’s a little warning for them, it doesn’t come in initially but when it comes into the box they run into that space. They want to get into that little area, no one wants to sit in there, there’s nobody prepared to do that for Manchester United.”
Forest took advantage of the supposed weakness after half-time once McTominay had come on for Mainoo. Goals from Dominguez and Morgan Gibbs-White sealed victory for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
And Keown said both goals were down to that gaping hole in United’s midfield. He added: “This is the second half, McTominay’s come on. Again there’s this player in front, no one there. Dominguez is in all sorts of space and this is just two passes and in the back of the net. Who’s in this position?
“[The second goal] is a break away. McTominay’s got to go to the ball and this is just a run-away goal here.
“They’ve got the bodies there, there’s top personnel at the back, no one communicates. Gibbs-White then punishes them, exactly the same, that area again, and just sweeps it in.”