Well, at least Manchester United can cling to the fact that the scoreline wasn't as bad as the last time they visited Brentford. Just about everything else was, though.

Erik ten Hag may not have suffered a four-goal humiliation at the Gtech Community Stadium on Satuday evening, but he might well have had it not been for Andre Onana and the home side's profligacy. It was very modern United to follow up a stirring FA Cup victory over Liverpool with a truly dismal display that they somehow managed to take a point from. Truth be told, it would have been a brazen robbery had Mason Mount's stoppage time strike proven to be the winner, which it looked destined to be until Kristoffer Ajer managed to turn one of Brentford's 31 shots into a goal.

31. A truly staggering number and one that keeps United among the Premier League's worst three performing teams in stopping efforts on goal. They are remarkably easy to get at, and it's a figure that could very feasibly lead to United taking another absolute battering from someone before the season is out.

Ten Hag is probably not going to guide the club to a second consecutive season in the Champions League, and his team remains one defined by inconsistency. Stirring moments such as Amad Diallo's strike to sink Liverpool will ultimately mean very little in the grand scheme if they are always followed up with performances of rank mediocrity. The Dutch manager has not been helped by injury issues, of course, but United are not alone in that regard, and a not-insignificant amount of United's problems can be placed at his door.

Structurally, they are so often all over the place. In midfield, teams can play around them with alarming ease, and it is an issue Ten Hag is struggling to address. The club have reared a real gem in Kobbie Mainoo, but he cannot do it all on his own. Scott McTominay has been United's primary goal threat, at times, this term, but controlling matches is not his forte, and 32-year-old Casemiro is now being levelled with that classic, inevitable accusation of 'his legs have gone'.

Time may, indeed, be catching up with the Brazilian, but he's far from Ten Hag's biggest problem. As well as the 31 shots, Brentford had 84 touches in United's box. It is incredible they did not manage to score until the 99th minute, and you could even argue they were even more dominant on the day that the 4-0 humbling they dished out at the troubled beginning of Ten Hag's tenure.

United were in the depths of despair back then, but over 18 months on they still do not consistently look like anything resembling a cohesive unit. Ten Hag has bemoaned his players' lack of hunger - always an alarming sign - and they give off the distinct impression of a side who do not really know what they are supposed to be doing on the pitch. As has happened so often in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson days, United resemble a collection of expensively assembled individuals, jittery at the back and uninspired in attack.

Their best moments come when games are stretched and chaotic, but that is not sustainable, as evidenced in the constantly erratic results and performances. That they can produce - as they did against Liverpool - on occasion suggests there is certainly potential in the group, but it's becoming increasingly doubtful that Ten Hag is the man to unlock it.

As his second season draws to a conclusion, one that could still produce a trophy with United in the FA Cup semi-finals, it's difficult for the manager to claim significant and continuing improvement in his side. He previously declared his ambition to turn United into 'the best transition team' in the world, but that dream is a long way off as things stand. Indeed, they have a habit of making opponents look deadly in transitional moments - a bitter irony.

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS group now controlling the football department, it remains to be seen if Ten Hag will be granted a third season at the helm. Whether the trophy cabinet has a fresh addition come May will be an important factor, and that would hopefully signal an upturn in performances between now and the end of the campaign, but it will likely involve having to overcome the might of Manchester City.

Further upheaval in the dugout is the last thing United need, but Ratcliffe may feel his hand being forced if things do not improve rapidly. He is reportedly fond of England manager Gareth Southgate, with the speculation swelling enough over the past week for Ten Hag to be asked about it directly. Southgate would be a considerable gamble on Ratcliffe's part, and there is a slim to none chance he leaves his current post before this summer's European Championships. It would not be an overwhelmingly popular appointment, either, with the 53-year-old unable to shake the perception that his England team often appears less than the sum of its parts.

With the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich all shopping for new managers this summer, it could prove extremely difficult to attract an elite coach to Old Trafford, if that, indeed, proves the route Ratcliffe wishes to take. Keeping Ten Hag would again involve backing him handsomely in the transfer market, as United remain short in a number of areas and seem unable to keep their best players consistently fit.

But the reality is something has to change, and fast. They are as far away from being Premier League winners and genuine Champions League heavyweights as they have been in the now 11 years since Ferguson rode off into the sunset. The regime change may bear fruit long term, but in the here and now things are as uncertain as ever.