Victor Lindelof secured Manchester United a much-needed win heading into the international break but there is plenty of work to do after Erik ten Hag's side edged past Luton 1-0; Jamie Redknapp: "It's like a soap opera there. Every single week, there's an issue on or off the field"
Sunday 12 November 2023 12:31, UK
Jamie Redknapp admitted he was surprised to learn Manchester United are the Premier League's in-form team following their unconvincing victory over Luton.
Erik ten Hag's side secured a much-needed 1-0 win before the international break, meaning it is now 12 points from their last five Premier League games stretching back to October 7.
This has been a chastening second season in the dugout for the Dutchman, with Wednesday's 4-3 Champions League defeat in Copenhagen making it nine defeats in just 17 matches.
United could ill-afford another shock as Luton came to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon, when a mixture of poor finishing and fine goalkeeping by Thomas Kaminski frustrated the hosts.
Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford all had good chances, but in the end defender Victor Lindelof was the unlikely match-winner in a slender Premier League triumph.
"You'd have never guessed they're the Premier League's in-form team," Redknapp told Sky Sports. "It's like a soap opera there. Every single week, there's an issue on or off the field.
"It doesn't feel like they're in good form, and the Champions League result was a bad one for them. You've got to build back slowly.
"Erik ten Hag has been under a lot of pressure and his side have not been playing well. Hojlund just can't seem to get that break in the Premier League like he has in the Champions League.
"But I think that just shows you, sometimes you can look at how a manager is under pressure and it might then feel the results haven't been there, but the performances haven't deserved them - if that makes sense."
It's like a soap opera there. Every single week, there's an issue on or off the field.
Kaminski was an impressive last line of defence throughout for Luton and spread himself well to prevent Hojlund scoring his first Premier League goal from a deflected Marcus Rashford cross.
It means 12 of United's 13 league goals this season have come from non-forwards.
"If you're going to win titles, you need goals from your forwards," added Redknapp. "If you look at Erling Haaland at Manchester City. Strikers need to be feared but I do see a player in Hojlund. I like his movement and he was unlucky not to score against Luton. It came off his knee or his hip.
"He tried to react and improvise. It just hasn't happened for him but when he gets one, he'll get two, three and it will start to come.
"He's got pace and he doesn't look fazed by playing for Manchester United. He just needs that little bit of luck in the Premier League."
Ten Hag says United need to start making life easier for themselves.
"We could have made life more easy if you score goals, but we create many chances," the United boss said. "First half, I observed four 100 per cent chances. If you get the first then you get the second, it becomes more easy.
"But if you don't score, then you know they can always drop a ball in the box and you are in trouble. So we had to fight to the end and it's maybe not the prettiest, but I am happy we created many chances."
Asked if the lack of a cutting edge is a confidence issue, Ten Hag said: "I don't think it is particularly a confidence thing because Hojlund scored five goals in the Champions League.
It just hasn't happened for him but when he gets one, he'll get two, three and it will start to come.
"He came full of confidence into this game and it will come. Rashford scored 30 goals last season. Obviously he's now not scoring but there will come a day he starts scoring again.
"I think the other offensive players like Garnacho, they are capable of scoring goals, so it will come. But what is good, we already have 13 different goalscorers in our team, so it expresses the way we want to play football.
"Everyone is attacking, everyone is defending, and also defenders with us can score goals."
Ten Hag will be hoping this victory did not come at too great a cost, with Hojlund and Christian Eriksen limping off and requiring further assessment once their respective issues have settled down.
The United boss will be hoping the Danish duo are available in a fortnight's time when they return from the international break with a Premier League trip to Everton.
It is a match Ten Hag will serve a touchline ban for after collecting his third booking of the season in stoppage time.
"So it was about a moment so clear, a throw-in, but it was the second time," the United manager added.
"I was on top of it. It was so clear and obvious our ball. It was my remark, so therefore I got booked.
"We have a very competent coaching staff and they will take over of course [at Everton]. Until a certain point I can be involved but, as I say, my coaching staff is very competent."
United head into November's break on 21 points from 12 matches - a perhaps surprising return given their poor performances to date.
Ten Hag's side will be desperate to kick on after the internationals, as will Luton after winning just one match since promotion via the play-offs.
Sky Sports' Zinny Boswell:
Manchester United had £232m worth of talent on the bench against Luton at Old Trafford, while the visitors' starting XI can't have cost more than £10m to assemble.
That wasn't reflected in the scoreline as Erik ten Hag's side failed to convince yet again.
Despite more than £325m being spent on the starting line-up, they hobbled over the line after struggling to score past a side that are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League.
The misfiring forwards will concern Ten Hag, who hasn't seen one of his attackers score in the league since Marcus Rashford's goal at Arsenal on September 3.
United have had to find goals from other sources but are one of the league's form teams after four wins from five games, which keeps them within sight of their rivals.
The doom and gloom has been all-consuming at Old Trafford this season, but Ten Hag goes into the international break on steadier ground. Saturday's win takes him to 30 wins in his first 50 league games, making him the fastest to reach this milestone at Man Utd.
Perhaps some perspective about Ten Hag's achievements is needed after months of questions about his suitability for the role. He's endured awful luck with injuries, an unsettled ownership situation and a unique set of dressing room problems.
The Dutchman has shown he's a survivor. Now he needs to back up his talk and get his team playing again.
After the international break, Manchester United return with a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Sunday November 26, live on Super Sunday on Sky Sports; kick-off 4.30pm.
Man Utd's next five Premier League games
Meanwhile, Luton are back in action on Saturday November 25. they host Crystal Palace at Kenilworth Road; kick-off 3pm.