MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (AP) – Manchester United’s season descended deeper into crisis on Wednesday after a 3-0 home loss against Newcastle ended its defense of the League Cup and heaped more pressure on manager Erik ten Hag.
Defeat in the round-of-16 game was United’s eighth loss in all competitions this season and the latest blow for English soccer’s most storied club.
“It is below the standards everyone expects from Manchester United. It is not good enough by far,” Ten Hag said. “We have to put it right. I take responsibility for it. It is my team and they are not performing. I have to share it with my players, but I am responsible.”
It is 10 years since United was last competing for club soccer’s biggest prizes when it won the Premier League title in former manager Alex Ferguson’s final season.
The wait to return to its former glories looks as far away now as at any point since then, with its current form pointing toward another season of disappointment.
The League Cup may not be a priority for a club of United’s stature, but it provided Ten Hag’s finest moment in the job when in February he led the team to the trophy by beating Newcastle at Wembley Stadium and ended its six-year wait for silverware.
That is a distant memory as United’s season continues to slide.
United suffered a 3-0 loss at home to Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, and Saudi-backed Newcastle’s repeat of that scoreline raises further questions for Ten Hag.
The Dutch coach, who won three league titles with Ajax, was mocked by Newcastle’s fans throughout the game as they chanted that he would be fired in the morning.
While there has been no suggestion Ten Hag’s position is under threat, United’s poor form is of growing concern.
After the game he described himself as “a fighter,” adding he was confident he would overcome a troubled start to the campaign.
“At all my clubs I have done it and also last year here I did it as well, but at this moment we are in a bad place,” he said. “I see it as a challenge.”
Newcastle was too much of a challenge on Wednesday as first-half goals from substitute Miguel Almiron and Lewis Hall put the visitors in control by the break and Joe Willock completed the scoring after an hour.
Defeat came despite Ten Hag naming a starting lineup that had cost around half a billion dollars — even without USD82 million off-season signing Rasmus Hojlund, as well as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.
By the time those players were called for in an attempt to turn the game around in the second half, Ten Hag had fielded around USD720 million of talent.
It made little difference to the outcome.
“As a team we are not good enough and whatever the reasons are, it is no space for excuses,” said Ten Hag.
“We have to do things better and we have to raise our standards because otherwise you never get the right levels and performance and never get the results.”
United had offered little penetration in the first half and went behind in the 28th minute after being caught on the break.
Alejandro Garnacho lost possession in Newcastle’s half, which gave Tino Livramento the chance to burst forward and find the run of Almiron, who beat Andre Onana from inside the box.
The lead was doubled eight minutes later, with United once again guilty of creating problems for itself.
Indecisiveness at the back eventually led to Harry Maguire tamely heading Willock’s cross from the left. His clearance only went as far as the edge of the area, where Hall was waiting to volley through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner.
Ten Hag made changes at halftime, notably taking off his captain Casemiro. But Newcastle extended its lead when Willock carried the ball to the edge of the area and swept a low shot past Onana. Newcastle now travels to Chelsea in the quarterfinals.
“We hope to go one better than last season,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.