Manchester United’s away form: Great year at Old Trafford, a not-so-great one away from it

Overall, Erik ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford has been a good one. Away from home though, the team has struggled. From last night’s 1-0 loss at Brighton to the 7-0 lashing at Liverpool, Manchester United look worlds apart from the 29-away game unbeaten streak set in 2021, with this side seeing seven Premier League wins in 17 games on the road.

Away games are notoriously tough, more so at some stadiums than others.

“Hostile atmospheres cause players to enter a challenge or threat state mentality,” says one Championship-level sports psychologist.

“These mentalities suggest that players enter fight or flight; they either begin to see the game as a challenge to be overcome, or a threat to be avoided,” he added. So is the issue that our players see the game the wrong way?

The player’s character is definitely a factor to look at when judging how well a player will perform away from home.

“Depending on a number of individual factors like personality and trait response, players will either rise to the occasion or crumble under the added pressure of the environment.”

That said, most fans would argue that United have players with better personalities this season. This includes World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez, five-time Champions League winner Casemiro, and Antony, who may not have as many major honours but definitely has the fight needed to do so.

Last night at the Amex Stadium, some of the players with the best mentality in the squad appeared to lose their heads, with Casemiro nearing a second booking and Antony swiping at Alexis MacAllister out of frustration. This gung-ho approach may also reflect Ten Hag’s style at times, with a fierce high press suiting these players, but against composed, technically sound sides like Brighton, may not be the best option.

The United side that holds the unbeaten away record in England’s top flight may have simply been better at controlling games, opting for a defensive approach to see out low-scoring matches on countless occasions. Though this strategy is not ideal for a side looking to play attacking football, it may be necessary that Ten Hag could incorporate this into his philosophy.

On the whole, it goes without saying that Ten Hag has Manchester United on the right track, but it is also true that he has a lot to learn, and so do our players. United’s style may have the intention of playing attractive football, but it seems that sometimes, the personalities in the squad, as well as the tactical approach, may not suit the pressured atmospheres encountered away from home.

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