Manchester United suffered their first defeat in a competitive game under new boss Erik ten Hag as the Red Devils made the worst possible start to the Dutchman’s reign at Old Trafford, going into half-time 2-0 down against Brighton after a brace from Pascal Gross.
Ten Hag who started the match with Christian Eriksen leading the line as a false nine, had shortly after the break pushed the former Tottenham star into a deeper role while sacrificing Fred for Cristiano Ronaldo up front.
Though the Red Devils appeared to have witnessed an improvement thereafter as they halved the deficit via an own with several opportunities to level the scores created.
United’s boss speaking after the disappointing game in his post-match press conference claimed that the Red Devils had no striker.
The Dutchman was asked if starting Eriksen as a false nine was a mistake, and he quickly replied: ‘If he was available, the striker, I would have played him.
Probed on why he did not choose to replace the injured Anthony Martial with either Ronaldo or Anthony Elanga, the former Ajax boss said: ‘Cristiano Ronaldo has been in team training for maybe 10 days and that is too short for 90 minutes so that’s the reason we did not start him.’
Asked if he trained with the false nine, he replied: ‘Of course. We trained quite well. I think we made passing mistakes in building up, so that is nothing to do with whether you are playing with a false nine or a typical number nine.’
On Eriksen’s role, he continued: ‘Because we didn’t have the typical number nine, I knew [Eriksen] played a long time as a striker a long time ago in Ajax, dropping in.
‘I wanted to keep Jadon and Marcus on the wings, coming inside they were really good in pre-season there. When I think, finally, Christian Eriksen is the best in the midfield and actually that was also the idea that he drops and gets in between the lines and to make the game.’