Football NewsManchester United’s First Game of the Season was a Real Gut Punch.
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Erik ten Hag marched back towards the tunnel, too angry and possibly too humiliated to look up as boos rang out throughout Old Trafford at halftime Wednesday.

New season, new hope, and new management; Manchester United also had a couple of new signings.

Ten Hag received a standing ovation, which he returned with a wave to the audience and a handshake for United’s mascot Fred the Red.

It’s difficult to put into words how drastically the tone altered in the first half. Even by United’s terrible standards over the last decade, this was a harsh reality check.

After so many false dawns, one would think fans would be used to it by now. Nonetheless, each new managerial appointment appears to instill new hope in this team, despite the fact that they must be anticipating what will come next.

However, it normally takes more than one half of football for the bubble to collapse. Only Louis van Gaal had lost his first match in charge of the seven prior managers — permanent, interim, and caretaker — who had succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson. Perhaps it’s a Dutch thing.

Ferguson also lost his first game, so don’t pass judgment just soon. Still, this must have been a crushing punch for Ten Hag.

By the time he returned down the touchline at halftime, United were two goals down and on their way to defeat. The new manager had made the audacious choice to sideline Cristiano Ronaldo, and you couldn’t blame him.

He owed it to the players who had gone on tour to Thailand and Australia after completing a full pre-season. Ronaldo is unable to select himself.

But if the Portugal star and his agent Jorge Mendes wanted proof that he is right in wanting to leave a club that plainly does not match his objectives this season, it was all on display at Old Trafford yesterday.

The plan to use Christian Eriksen as a false nine did not work, but neither did Ronaldo’s arrival in the 52nd minute to a mixed reception.

Brighton scored a sloppy own goal to keep things intriguing, but there was no grandstand finish.

Ten Hag brought in another sub, Donny van de Beek, with a handwritten note for captain Harry Maguire that said who knows what.

At the death, three additional substitutes — Anthony Elanga, Tyrell Malacia, and Alejandro Garnacho — came on, but Brighton could not have finished the game more comfortably.

Ten Hag stepped onto the field after the final whistle to thank the officials before walking back towards the tunnel.

He cast a glimpse over his shoulder at Ronaldo, who was standing with his hands on his hips in that familiar losing position.

The one who claims, ‘Whatever is wrong here isn’t my fault.’

Ten Hag now recognizes the magnitude of the mission he has undertaken.