Erik ten Hag denied Manchester United are in crisis despite the 3-1 loss to Brighton at Old Trafford being their third of the season and leaves them with six points from five matches and a goal difference of minus four.
The defeats is United’s worst run in the Premier League era, though five points is their lowest return after five games, under Louis van Gaal in the 2014-15 season.
Ten Hag rejected that his side were in crisis on the pitch after a turbulent fortnight off it. Jadon Sancho has been banished from the first-team squad and Antony given a leave of absence after assault allegations.
“We have to be very disappointed and annoyed at ourselves,” he said. “We will turn this around. But there is a demand on us to win games.
“Definitely that is something that bothers me [form] but also I have to see the way we play [which was good] but it’s about character. Now we have to see how strong we are and how the team sticks together.”
United’s starting XI cost £347m, £17m was the price of Brighton’s, whose manager, Roberto De Zerbi, made six changes. Ten Hag was asked to explain how his side could perform so poorly despite this disparity. “They also spend money, as everyone is doing,” he said. “When Manchester United comes, it inflates the price [of players].”
Rasmus Højlund, Ten Hag’s new £64m striker, made his full debut and when replaced on the hour by Anthony Martial the decision was booed.
Ten Hag said: “It was positive [for him] – you see the fans in the first moment in Old Trafford, the reception for him was great, he performed very well. It’s good they give this signal, it will give Rasmus belief. But everyone knows he came in with a small issue.
“If he gets injured because he is not capable of playing 90 minutes then we are much farther away than where we want to go.”
Højlund had a first-half goal ruled out and Ten Hag said: “We play well and have the disallowed goal but if we stick together, stick to the plan, stick to the rules and the principles we will turn this.”
On Wednesday, United travel to Munich for the start of their Champions League campaign. “Bayern Munich is one of the favourites to win the Champions League so we have to be good there and I already explained we need character, belief, resilience, determination,” said Ten Hag.
Brighton’s goals were scored by Danny Welbeck, Pascal Gross and João Pedro, Hannibal Mejbri registering United’s consolation.
“Football is nice because the small team can win,” said De Zerbi. “Brighton is becoming not a big, big team but [bigger]. It is not a surprise – the quality of the players is very high.”