Incoming minority owner INEOS, represented by Sir Dave Brailsford, was seated in the stands at the City Ground to witness their new investment Manchester United slump to an almost predictable defeat by the score line of 1-2 on Saturday evening.
If the gravity of their work was not already clear, INEOS surely need to look no further to the side’s defeat as a symptom of not just this season, but life at United since the man seated next to Brailsford, Sir Alex Ferguson, has retired. A false dawn followed by crushing slumps in results and even seasons.
The starting point to where their work will begin will start with the manager as questions were inevitably posed at Ten Hag on the potential frailty of his position after the club’s 9th league defeat this season.
"“Of course. They (INEOS) know me and they know when I have a squad what is available the results will be there. We already proved against the top teams we can go head to head.”"- Ten Hag on new owners
United were without Luke Shaw, Sofyan Amrabat, Harry Maguire, Rasmus Hojlund, Anthony Martial, Casemiro, Victor Lindelof, Tyrell Malacia, Mason Mount and Lisandro Martinez for the clash against Forest and Ten Hag can, at least for now, point to the safety of this reason as a key contributor for the side’s struggles.
But even Ten Hag will know that injuries can only provide a crutch for so long as regardless of the missing personnel, a side of United’s depth and quality should still not be struggling against relegation teams such as Forest.
"“We always have to swap. (It) doesn’t matter how we line up, we have to win, but the routines are not there and every time we have to swap. Today is another example. When Hojlund is ill, we have to swap our frontline and we have seen it in the first half there was no speed in the game there.”"- Ten Hag on rotation
Many will point to the substitution of Kobbie Mainoo, who lost 7 out of 7 of his duels, for Scott McTominay as a decisive moment in the game as it was McTominay who failed to scan the field for Morgan Gibbs-White that led to Forest’s winning goal and also was not close enough to Nicolas Dominguez for his opener.
It was another insipid display from McTominay only further highlighted by Ten Hag’s puzzling persistence with him.
"“No (Mainoo was not injured). But he played a third game in a row in this week and that’s tough, where he’s coming from. I thought the energy was a little bit lower than the other two games this week, therefore we brought some new energy in. I don’t regret (the substitution). "
"I thought Scott brought energy, I thought second half was much better our side. The first goal when you analyse it good, they went down the sides. Nothing to do with the central midfield there. Second goal was a counter-attack where there was a miscommunication, we had enough players.”"- Ten Hag on subbing Kobbie Mainoo
United will have some respite from the league for a fortnight as they return to action in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic on January 8.