At a time when Erik ten Hag’s transfer policy is coming under some scrutiny, Andre Onana picked a bad moment to commit his first high-profile howler for Manchester United.
The Cameroon goalkeeper has shipped 14 goals in his first six games and addressed concerns over his shaky start at United when he spoke to the media ahead of the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
‘I don’t think I’m here because I’m good with my feet. First I have to save the goals,’ he said.
Twenty-four hours later, Onana made his first real blunder when he spilled Leroy Sane’s effort into his net in United’s 4-3 defeat at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.
There was still the best part of an hour – and six more goals – to go, but it changed the tone of the match and United never truly recovered.
Andre Onana made his first major blunder for Man United in their 4-3 loss to Bayern Munich
Onana has shipped 14 goals in his first six matches since he made a £47.2m summer move
The goalkeeper’s crucial error comes as Erik ten Hag’s transfer policy is given scrutiny
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In Onana’s defence, he made some key saves as United somehow stayed in the game. There have been other important interventions, notably in the win over Nottingham Forest, and he has had to play behind a defence disrupted by injuries.
The 27-year-old was also big enough to insist on talking to the media again after the game to take the blame – a gesture rejected by his captain Bruno Fernandes.
‘It’s not about Andre. He hasn’t to take any blame for nothing,’ said Fernandes. ‘We have to take the blame as a team that we’re going to go through this moment together.
‘Andre is a great goalkeeper. He will keep giving us a lot of points, a lot of saves.’ The mood among the United players at the moment is that it’s vital to maintain unity amid the dreadful start to the season. There is a feeling that some of the togetherness fostered during Ten Hag’s first season has been lost.
The situation hasn’t been helped by off-the-field issues that mean Antony and Jadon Sancho aren’t training with the first-team squad at present.
There was also some disquiet over the way David de Gea’s 12-year United career came to an end as he was ushered out of the back door after Ten Hag decided he wanted a keeper who was better with the ball at his feet.
None of that was Onana’s fault, of course. But having planned to sell Dean Henderson and sign a new back-up keeper for De Gea, United blew a larger chunk of their budget by buying Onana from Inter Milan for £47.2million – a year after he left Ten Hag and Ajax on a free transfer.
It’s the kind of money that could have made the difference between getting Harry Kane rather than Rasmus Hojlund this summer. Both Kane and Hojlund scored for their teams in the Allianz Arena, but there is no doubt who would be the greater asset to United right now.
Antony has failed to justify his £85m fee even prior to facing off the pitch allegations
Defender Lisandro Martinez was a success last season but has struggled so far this campaign
Casemiro, left, and Mason Mount, right, have been big additions to the club under Ten Hag
Onana is one of a number of Holland-based players who have followed Ten Hag to United, the manager showing a strong preference for going Dutch which has raised some questions.
Antony also moved from Ajax at a cost of £85m and has yet to justify that transfer fee. At the time, United were unaware of the allegations that the Brazilian assaulted two women, which he strongly denies and is currently contesting while on paid leave.
Lisandro Martinez was one of the success stories of Ten Hag’s first season in charge, but the former Ajax defender has yet to find his rhythm this term.
Martinez has been struggling with a foot injury after fracturing a metatarsal towards the end of last season, and was criticised for his role in Pascal Gross’ second goal when Brighton beat United on Saturday.
Christian Eriksen, another player with Ajax connections, made a strong start at United but hasn’t hit the same heights since returning from an ankle injury in April.
Meanwhile, Tyrell Malacia has yet to make a real impact following his move from Feyenoord last year and is one of a number of United players currently out through injury.
Under Ten Hag, United have also spent £72m on Hojlund, £60m on Mason Mount and £70m on Casemiro who has also struggled to reproduce his fine form of last season despite scoring twice against Bayern on Wednesday.
Having spent £400m on new players, this is Ten Hag’s United now and that is one of the most disconcerting aspects about the club’s poor start.
Man United have Ten Hag’s stamp on the squad having spent £400m during his time in charge
Concerns have been raised over the involvement Ten Hag’s agent Kees Vos (left) and his agency Sport Entertainment Group in the club’s transfer activity
Man United will attempt to steady the ship against Burnley following three straight defeats
TEN HAG’S UNITED SIGNINGS
Antony – £85.5m
Rasmus Hojlund – £72m
Casemiro – £70m
Mason Mount – £60m
Lisandro Martinez – £55m
Andre Onana – £47m
Tyrell Malacia – £14.6m
Sofyan Amrabat – £8m loan fee
Wout Weghorst – £2.5m loan fee
Christian Eriksen – free
Jonny Evans – free
The other concern, highlighted by Mail Sport earlier this week, is the influence Ten Hag’s representative Kees Vos and his agency Sport Entertainment Group are having over player signings and sales at Old Trafford.
SEG took over as Hojlund’s agents before he joined United and were involved in a number of other deals including Sofyan Amrabat’s loan from Fiorentina.
It’s a distraction Ten Hag can well do without as he tries to steady the ship at Burnley on Saturday.
Hopefully, he will have some reinforcements having been unfortunate with injuries so far: 10 of the 12 players unavailable to him in Munich were receiving treatment.
But Fernandes dismissed that as an excuse, saying: ‘No, it’s not about that.. We can’t rely on the injuries and everything.
‘Obviously, we want to have everyone back because we know that as many players we have available, the team will be stronger.
‘But we have the players and we have enough experience and enough talent in the team to get through this moment.’
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