Manchester United have confirmed players will undertake the traditional circuit of the Old Trafford pitch after tonight’s final home game against Brentford to “show their appreciation” to supporters. While Ralf Rangnick’s squad will be hopeful it will be more lap of honour than walk of shame they are said to be braced for plenty to voice frustration at them, the owners and another underwhelming campaign.
Even if they manage to make it a three-point finale – making it 10 wins – there will be no getting away from a record which continues an ongoing slump in their home fortunes. If Old Trafford used to be intimidating for opposition, just 10 wins out of 19 and 35 points would be another poor return from a place which now seems to intimidate those in the red shirts.
This has been a home slump nine years in the making and a drop off from the last last six seasons of Alex Ferguson’s reign in each of which United took a minimum of 15 victories and a minimum of 47 points at home.
Since then, just two seasons – 14 wins and 44 points for Louis Van Gaal in his first season in 2014-15 and 15 wins and 47 points for Jose Mourinho in his second season in 2017-18 – have bucked a trend which has made opposition look forward to trips to M16.
Even if Rangnick’s men sign off with a win against the Bees on Monday night giving them those 10 wins, this will be the fourth consecutive season when they have won no more than 10 out of 19 home games.
More worryingly for incoming boss Erik Ten Hag is a fourth consecutive points haul of less than 37 out of a possible 57. Not the record of a team which can challenge for Champions League football let alone titles.
The incoming coach has a mountain of tasks already sitting in his in-tray but making Old Trafford a fortress again needs to be high on his priority list. It will be a help to him that perhaps as many as 10 of the squad walking around the pitch tonight will not be around to carry any baggage into his debut campaign.
But by its nature turning around fortunes at home is not going to be a quick fix. Brentford could prove more difficult opposition for United than they might have been at a different stage of the season.
They are unbeaten in four, have five wins in their last seven Premier League games including away wins at Chelsea and Watford and drew with Spurs in their last game. United will fancy their chances of a restorative victory to ensure that a fifth home game does not go the way of defeats to Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves in his campaign.
There is another protest planned before the game as there was before Chelsea last week and fans have been asked by one supporters group to leave their seats in the 73rd minute – missing 17 minutes of the game with one for every year of Glazer ownership. If they do at least they will not be around to boo at full-time which could be a blessing in disguise for Rangnick and his men.