The 6 times Man Utd lost their PL opener – & what happened next
Erik ten Hag didn’t get off to the start he envisaged as Manchester United suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton to kick off the 2022-23 campaign.
But the former Ajax boss will be confident in his ability to bounce back from the early setback and can take some solace in United’s tendency to respond to opening-day defeats in years gone by.
The Red Devils have now suffered seven losses in their opening fixtures in the Premier League era. Here’s what happened next after the last six, from Sir Alex Ferguson to Louis van Gaal to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Having been pipped to the top spot by Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds United in the last season before the dawn of the Premier League, Ferguson’s side were a wounded animal and their search for a first league title since 1967 went on.
But they didn’t make a good start to the 1992-93 campaign, kicking things off with a 2-1 defeat away to Sheffield United, with Brian Deane scoring the very first goal of the Premier League era for Blades.
Things didn’t get much better from there, with a 3-0 defeat to Everton the following week and a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Ipswich the week after. They did recover to win five on the bounce but then went winless in seven. By mid-November, they were 10th in the table and nine points off surprise league leaders Norwich City.
Then came Eric Cantona and the rest is history. The mercurial Frenchman, signed from Leeds, inspired them to the league title and an unprecedented period of domestic dominance.
A 3-1 defeat away to Aston Villa on the opening day of the 1995-96 campaign inspired one of the most infamous pieces of punditry ever recorded.
“I think they’ve got problems,” former Liverpool centre-back Alan Hansen responded on Match of the Day.
“I wouldn’t say they’ve got major problems. Obviously, three players have departed, the trick is always buy when you’re strong, so he needs to buy players. You can’t win anything with kids.
“You look at that line-up Manchester United today and quarter-past two when they get the teamsheet it’s just gonna give them a lift and it’ll happen every time he plays the kids. He’s got to buy players.”
Fergie’s youthful United side responded by winning five in a row and taking 26 points from the next 30 on offer. They ended up reclaiming the Premier League trophy back off Blackburn and beating Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle entertainers in a thrilling title tussle.
A reminder of the Premier League’s opening day in 1995. Alan Hansen tells Des Lynam that #MUFC urgently need new players after a 3-1 defeat to Villa.
After all, you can’t win anything with kids…pic.twitter.com/FC74DTiZwN
— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) August 10, 2019
Jose Mourinho’s first competitive match in charge of Chelsea was a big one. They beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, which was both a statement of intent and a sign of things to come. Mourinho’s Blues cruised to the title, registering a then-record 95 points, conceding just 15 goals, a defensive record that remains unlikely to ever be surpassed.
United finished a distant third, a massive 28 points off champions Chelsea.
Ferguson’s last season in charge of United is remembered as a procession because that’s what it was.
But the season got off to an inauspicious start with a 1-0 defeat away to Everton. New signing Robin van Persie made his Red Devils bow off the bench but couldn’t inspire a comeback as Marouane Fellaini’s header proved to be the match-winner for David Moyes’ side.
United dusted themselves off and responded well, winning nine of the next 10. They never let up from there, sealing the title as early as April, with Van Persie’s 26 league goals proving Fergie’s perfect farewell gift.
The 2013-14 campaign was a nadir for United, with Moyes getting sacked as the club suffered their lowest-ever placing of the Premier League era, 7th.
New boss Louis van Gaal was tasked with steering the ship around but he suffered an early blip with a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City. United won just one of their opening five fixtures, picking up five points from 15 available.
But things improved, particularly in the middle portion of the season, and Van Gaal’s side eventually made their way back into the Champions League with a fourth-place finish.
Donny van de Beek scored on his competitive debut for United. Unfortunately for him, it was a consolation in a 3-1 loss at home to Crystal Palace.
“You can see we are short and they deserved the points,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responded. “Today was a performance you don’t see very often from this group. We should look at ourselves in the mirror. Everyone knows we can perform better than this.”
Performances didn’t immediately get any better, with home defeats to Tottenham (1-6) and Arsenal (0-1) following a short while later. But Solskjaer’s men did improve, going the whole season unbeaten away from home and ending up as runners-up to Manchester City – one of only two occasions they’ve finished second in the post-Ferguson period.