The Rebound: directionless Man Utd are only heading one way under Erik ten Hag

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A look back on all of the weekend’s Premier League action, including Manchester United, Chelsea, and Bournemouth.

Everything about Sunday afternoon’s Manchester derby felt achingly predictable. From Sky Sports’ montage of cobblestoned poetry yammering on about industry and trebles; to Erling Haaland’s nonchalant brace as cries of ‘Keano’ rained down from the terraces, intermingling with a mirthless downpour to compound United’s soggy cardboard resolve; to the inevitable post-match pillowfight between Neville and Carragher, two men in sensible trainers shouting about ownership models and recruitment models in increasingly shrill tones. We have seen this show before and we almost certainly know how it ends.

In some respects, the issue for United is not that they lost 3-0 at Old Trafford to their noisy neighbours. By now, the Red Devils will be acutely aware of the fact that City have it within themselves to dismantle anybody on their day. Yes, derbies are different, but given how utterly lacklustre Erik ten Hag’s side have been this season, the result itself is no great surprise. What will sting, however, is the manner in which United lost.

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This was a performance without purpose, poise, or seemingly any semblance of a plan. When the Dutchman arrived in Manchester, you at least got the impression that he was trying to build something with an identity. Now, as a geriatric Jonny Evans hoofs diagonal balls skywards in the vain hope of releasing Rasmus Hojlund - the Cuthbert the Caterpillar to the aforementioned Haaland’s Colin - you begin to wonder whether Ten Hag might in fact be closer to the ‘Homer Simpson barbecue catastrophe’ end of the construction spectrum. He’s about a fortnight away from sitting down in a post-match press conference and asking what the hell ‘le grille’ is?

But perhaps the saddest thing you can say about United at the moment is that it is not immediately clear as to where they go from here. Then again, it hasn’t been for the past decade. As I’ve already said, we’ve seen this show before. Presumably they will throw more money at the problem until it becomes apparent that Ten Hag - like his bald brethren Dr. Evil and The Hood from Thunderbirds before him - is an entirely foilable supervillain and he is kicked to the curb in favour of another poor sucker who is lured to Old Trafford on the hazy promises of ever-diminishing former glories. Until then, to the wool merchants of the Greater Manchester region I say this; stock up on yellow and green, lads.

Elsewhere, Chelsea continue to perform their own take on a classic dance in which they slide, hop, and flail around in synchronised futility - always moving while never really getting anywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Che Che Slide. Taking them back now y’all this week were Brentford, who booked an Uber XL across West London, rocked up at Stamford Bridge, and subsequently Charlie Browned their way to all three points.

Quite what this means for Mauricio Pochettino’s project remains to be seen. On the one hand, it was a first defeat in four against a side who have proven themselves capable of bloodying just about any nose in the Premier League under the guidance of wild-eyed pragmatist Thomas Frank. On the other, it was a discomforting reminder of just how much work there is left to do before this expensively-assembled heap of nuts, bolts, and long-term gambles can be considered a cohesive footballing entity.

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The Blues had more shots, more possession, and made more passes than the Bees, but were ultimately thwarted every which way in a 2-0 defeat, and at the present moment in time, they bring to mind a Frankenstein’s monster wearing a Gucci suit during a power cut; it might look pretty, but until somebody rejigs the fuse box, it will remain wholly lifeless.

And finally, Bournemouth - at long, long last - have won a game of Premier League football. Of course, it is worth stating that the achievement comes with caveats; for one thing, they beat a Burnley side who themselves already look doomed in much the same way that a pinata might be at a quinceanera; for another, they still sit just the one point above a relegation spot and three of their next four matches are against Manchester City, Newcastle United, and Aston Villa.

But this is still a huge step in the right direction for a severely scrutinised Andoni Iraola. Thus far, the Cherries punt on the Spaniard has unequivocally rolled snake eyes, but if - and it is a big if - things do click for him on the south coast, then there is still the potential for him to be regarded as a worthwhile appointment. His style of play is breathlessly seductive when it truly shines, and his squad is packed with unassuming talent. Hopefully Saturday’s result is enough to buy him a little more time at the Vitality, but make no mistake, there are storms left to weather.

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