It was a frustrating end to the weekend for Manchester United after failing to score against Newcastle in a 0-0 draw that simply lacked any proper rhythm for much of the ninety minutes.
The two best chances for Reds came later on in the game. Marcus Rashford rounded Nick Pope and squared it to Fred, but the Brazilian could not convert from close range whilst being surrounded by defenders in the 88th minute. Replays suggest the goal could well have been ruled out for offside, though.
Rashford then had an opportunity to score the match-winner himself deep into stoppage time when Casemiro floated in a delightful cross with the outside of his right foot. The 24-year-old glanced his header wide of the post in what was a true head-in-hands moment; Pope had no chance of getting to it had it been on target.
It would be a disservice to Newcastle to not mention their best chance to score, however, and that came in the first half when Joelinton floated a header onto the crossbar, only to then hit the post on the rebound, also with his head.
The visitors had a penalty appeal waved away in the first ten minutes when Callum Wilson and Raphael Varane collided.
That was not the only controversial penalty shout waved away, either, with Jadon Sancho tripped in the area by Sean Longstaff. Bafflingly to many, VAR saw no need to intervene, with the contact deemed minimal in spite of a clear trip in the second half.Embed from Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea were presented with awards before the game by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself. Ronaldo was awarded for 700 career goals, whilst De Gea was awarded for 500 club appearances (the Spaniard became the first overseas player to achieve the feat, and the 11th man to do so).
Ronaldo was right in the thick of the action in the second half. The Portuguese had a goal correctly chalked off for offside in the 48th minute, but then had the ball in the net again moments later. Ronaldo- like fans and pundits- thought a Newcastle free-kick had been taken as it was lightly rolled back to Pope, but the referee was having none of it and even gave the striker a yellow card after he took the ball and rolled it into an empty net.
It was not the best performance from Craig Pawson as the inconsistent officiating again dominates the conversation around the best league in world football.
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
It is very difficult to pick a standout performer in a goalless draw. Varane and Martinez dealt with everything in their path, but Casemiro again played well in defensive midfield.
The Brazilian made a host of sliding challenges, and whilst he was carded for a reckless one, it was good to see his midfield tenacity being used to good effect.
He disrupted passages of play well and the 30-year-old nearly provided a match-winning assist had it not been for a clumsy miss my Rashford in the final seconds.
Whilst hardly setting the world on fire against Omonia Nicosia and Newcastle, Casemiro is definitely a mainstay in this Ten Hag team.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
Disappointment and frustration will be the feeling amongst the Red Devils fanbase at the moment; disappointment that the team could not find a winner and keep the good league form ticking over, and frustration in that certain individuals are not performing as well as they should be in a United shirt.
Fred simply made you want to tear your hair out on Sunday afternoon. The Brazilian cannot pass the ball quickly and transition from the defence to the attack. His shooting is sub-par for a £50m player and it is worth noting he did not know that Rashford was offside in the build-up when he missed an open goal. Even his tenacity (arguably his best quality) becomes null and void when he lunges into stupid sliding tackles.
If Fred gets a renewed contract as he approaches 30 years of age, you seriously ought to ask questions of the people who make these decisions. He is not the only issue, but certainly a prominent one in the last few seasons.
Eriksen’s absence and Fred’s presence highlighted a major issue for Ten Hag- the sheer shortage of quality and depth in the squad. There were only three senior pros on the bench (four if you count Elanga). Without Eriksen in that box-to-box midfielder position, United are going to struggle to create sustained passages of play across the entirety of a match.
Ten Hag did not cover himself in glory, though. To draw a game 0-0 and only use one substitute does not reflect well. Plus, Ronaldo definitely scores that Rashford chance at the end with his head, which does rub salt in the wounds.
Granted, Elanga and Pellistri are young players, but they have both played international football at a senior level. Elanga has started a Champions League knockout game and scored in another. Surely they could be thrown into the action when you are trying to bag a winner. The same goes for Garnacho- you have to give these players a chance.
Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea were bound to be three tough games, and the players have faltered at the first hurdle.
The result leaves the team 5th on 16 points behind Chelsea (4th on 19 points) and Spurs (3rd on 23 points), both not far ahead.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Spurs, taking place on Wednesday 19th October at Old Trafford, kicking off at 20:15 (BST).
After that, the Reds head to Samford Bridge where they will face Chelsea at 17:30 (BST) on the following Saturday, which is 22nd October.