Erik ten Hag won the Carabao Cup during a promising first season in charge but the Dutchman’s second campaign has been a roller coaster with more lows than highs.
United’s season reached a nadir on Saturday afternoon as Bournemouth won at Old Trafford for the first time in their history, with the hosts fortunate to escape with only a 3-0 defeat.
It was a remarkable drop-off from Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Chelsea and led exasperated Ten Hag to admit they are not good enough to play on a high level consistently.
“(I want) to apologise for the performance,” skipper Fernandes said. “It was not acceptable, starting on me. I’m not talking about anyone else.
“But I think everyone agrees in the dressing room that the performance was (not) at our level and we have to perform much better.
“It was underperforming on quality-wise, on effort-wise and not aggressive as we did in the last game against Chelsea.
“If you don’t do your job, you’re not going to win the game.”
Similar words and explanations have been heard during a challenging season that has seen United lose 11 of their 23 matches in all competitions.
Did yesterday actually happen? 😆
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) December 10, 2023
They have won 11 and drawn the other, but the eye-watering number of defeats means pressure is mounting on Ten Hag and his team.
“I don’t know (why it was so different to Chelsea) but it’s been consistently like (this),” Fernandes told MUTV. “When we win a game, the next one we don’t perform in the same way we did before.
“I don’t know if it’s like a lack of concentration or focus or something else, but it’s something that we have to be aware that after winning a game we have to get that consistency of winning games.
“Even sometimes (if we are) underperforming but getting the result.”
United now need to press reset and find the right attitude to avoid being sent into a tailspin at the end of a crucial week.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 9, 2023
First up comes Tuesday’s key Champions League clash against Bayern Munich, with the Red Devils only progressing if they win and the other Group A game between Copenhagen and Galatasaray ends in a draw.
Then comes a Premier League trip to rivals Liverpool next Sunday – a match Fernandes will miss after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Bournemouth.
“Obviously it’s good (that we play soon),” Fernandes said. “Obviously we know that now the next game is going to be really tough.
“We have to win and obviously wait for a good result on the other game for us.
“But we have to do our job first of all, and thinking and understanding that is going to be a tough game for us.
“But we are capable, more than able, to get the result.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 9, 2023
While United’s problems are pored over in minute detail, things are looking far rosier on the south coast.
Summer appointment Andoni Iraola has overseen a superb upturn in recent weeks at Bournemouth.
Asked where the win rated in the club’s recent history, long-serving right-back Adam Smith told BBC Radio Solent: “I’d say it’s number one.
“I mean, it’s the Theatre of Dreams and we had never won here. It was tough at times and we suffered. But we were playing Manchester United.
“I think the lads will remember it for a long time. We kept a clean sheet and it probably should have maybe have been 4-0. It was unbelievable for the fans.”
A positive development for United was midfielder Casemiro stepping up his recovery from injury.
The club on Sunday evening issued an update on the Brazil international, who has not played since November 1, saying he had been training alone at their Carrington base that day while his team-mates took part in a recovery session.