Football News

‘We have to accept the reality’ – Andre Onana opens up after Man Utd endure worst Premier League campaign

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:30, 21 May 2024

Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana says it’s not his job to defend embattled head coach Erik ten Hag after the club endured their worst Premier League campaign.

Despite a 2-0 win at Brighton to conclude the 2023/24 season, they ended with a negative goal difference (57 scored, 58 conceded), something the Red Devils last managed in 1989-90 (-1 in both cases).

Furthermore, the record 20-time English champions slumped to its worst-ever Premier League finish in eighth place. It marks their worst performance since coming 13th under Alex Ferguson in 1990.

Onana, who joined from Inter Milan last summer, reunited with former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag. When Gary Neville on The Overlap asked if the Dutchman had changed since those Amsterdam days, the Cameroonian shot-stopper was equivocal.

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“I don’t see any difference [in the way Ten Hag manages Manchester United in comparison to Ajax],” he said. “I think he’s the same guy. Listen, we are the same guys, we are the same players, he is the same manager that I knew in Ajax, he will not change in one or two years.

“I am not here to back him, because he’s big enough to [back himself]. Last season, he was fantastic for him. So, it’s just a bad season.

“So for me, last season I was the best, so for this season, we have a different goalkeeper? No, it’s the same guy. He’s just facing difficult situations, and we are big enough to accept the reality, because if we want to make things well, we have to accept the reality and we have to go [in on the] front foot.

“So, I think he’s the same manager. He’s just facing different, difficult situations and hopefully things become good for him.”

A month ago, Neville opined Ten Hag was on the same path as his predecessors before their dismissal.

Since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013, the Red Devils have gone through four permanent head coaches before appointing Ten Hag ahead of the 2022/23 season.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and incumbent Ten Hag won two League Cups, a Europa League title, and one FA Cup trophy combined.

However, there could be a reprieve in the guise of an FA Cup victory, with United facing Premier League champions and neighbours Manchester City at Wembley on May 25, but very few are backing an upset.

It’s been a season full of undesirable milestones, with their defence taking a considerable beating. Only bottom side Sheffield United (678) faced more shots than Ten Hag’s side in 2023/24 (667).

To put this in some greater context, they’ve conceded more shots this season than any other Premier League campaign. Since Opta started recording data in 2003-04, they’ve never eclipsed the 600 barrier with only two seasons above 500 (511 in 2021-22, 506 in 2011-12).

Given United’s immense size and the attention it garners, numerous pundits and former players are eager to share their opinions. Asked if this level of intense scrutiny bothers the club’s present squad, Onana conceded it’s merited to an extent.

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“For me, I don’t pay attention to it. I have come into this team to take bullets, because we are under construction – at the moment, we are not the best.

“We have other teams who are doing better than us and we have to be honest and recognize that. If things and when things are going wrong, don’t go for the youngest player – I’m here to take it, Bruno [Fernandes], Casemiro and Harry [Maguire] are there and we are used to it.

“When it’s people who were sitting where I’m sitting, who won everything, sometimes it’s bizarre – we are in the same boat. We try to follow your thing and what you did. For me, I don’t mind, but other people may be affected. For me, to be honest, it’s just a part of the game.”