Erik ten Hag has proven himself to be the tough-guy supervisor that Manchester United wanted when he was employed to take cost on the finish of their dismal 2022-23 season. However the former Ajax coach is at risk of seeing the soccer facet of his job unravel at Outdated Trafford.
The 53-year-old stated final Friday he inherited a “no-good tradition” when he arrived on the membership 16 months in the past and he has been daring and decisive in making an attempt to take care of the malaise throughout the squad. From forcing the gamers to run eight miles on the coaching floor as punishment for working eight miles fewer than Brentford in a 4-0 defeat in August 2022 to publicly calling out Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho for failing to satisfy his requirements on and off the pitch, Ten Hag has exerted his authority. And, regardless of the disciplinary points he encountered inside a squad which required a significant overhaul — as ESPN reported final month, he has moved on nearly 20 gamers since taking cost — Ten Hag guided United to a third-place end and reached two main finals final season, profitable one within the Carabao Cup.
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However all is just not properly at Outdated Trafford. The Premier League’s largest and most profitable membership (traditionally, no less than) is now on the point of one other disaster. With back-to-back away video games at Bayern Munich within the Champions League and Burnley within the Premier League this week, issues may worsen earlier than they begin to get higher. United’s historical past since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 exhibits a worrying pattern of managers hitting turbulence after a formidable first season after which failing to show the tide again of their favour. Ten Hag is just not on the level but, however the storm clouds are gathering and outcomes — the measure by which all managers are judged — are deteriorating.
Since ending Man United’s six-year trophy drought by profitable the Carabao Cup ultimate towards Newcastle United on Feb. 26, Ten Hag’s crew has suffered an alarming nosedive when it comes to type and outcomes. As much as and together with that 2-0 victory towards Eddie Howe’s facet at Wembley, Ten Hag’s United had received 72.5% of their video games in all competitions. Since that day, United’s win share has dropped to 51.9%, and the extended lack of type has now seen them make the membership’s worst begin to a season since 1989-90 by shedding three of their first 5 video games of this marketing campaign. Away from house, United have claimed only one level from a attainable 27 in video games towards prime 10 opponents and have managed solely three wins from their final 10 away from Outdated Trafford in all competitions.
Tactically, Ten Hag has additionally struggled to point out himself to be a optimistic game-changer. Throughout the 7-0 defeat at Liverpool in March he deployed centre-forward Wout Weghorst as a No. 10, Rashford as a lone striker and positioned Bruno Fernandes on the left, failing to focus on the defensive weaknesses of Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. He was additionally outsmarted by Pep Guardiola in the course of the FA Cup ultimate defeat towards Manchester Metropolis, whereas Saturday’s 3-1 defeat towards Brighton & Hove Albion at Outdated Trafford got here after Seagulls coach Roberto De Zerbi took lower than 20 minutes to negate Ten Hag’s tactical ploy of enjoying with a diamond formation in midfield.
Ten Hag has loads of credit score within the financial institution from final season. The United hierarchy employed him with the total expectation that it could take time to make the crew genuinely aggressive once more, and Ten Hag arguably over-delivered in his first marketing campaign in cost. However so did Jose Mourinho when he received the Carabao Cup and Europa League in his debut season. The previous Chelsea, Inter Milan and Actual Madrid coach was unable to kick on earlier than shedding his job 4 months into his third time period following a breakdown of his relationship along with his Outdated Trafford bosses and the membership’s gamers.
A failure to get the signings he needed, coupled with United’s reluctance and/or lack of ability to half with gamers he did not need — Anthony Martial being probably the most notable instance — fostered a way of grievance with Mourinho that accelerated his downfall. Ten Hag has fared higher than Mourinho with regards to getting his targets, however that success in getting who he desires would possibly but work towards him if outcomes proceed to flatline.
Will midfielder Mason Mount and goalkeeper André Onana actually make United higher? Is centre-forward Rasmus Højlund actually a greater long-term wager than Harry Kane? Was Ten Hag proper to push for midfielder Sofyan Amrabat within the ultimate days of the switch window? The solutions to these questions will are available time, however it’s honest to say that Ten Hag misjudged Weghorst’s potential to make a distinction following his mortgage arrival from Burnley in January and Antony, who’s on a go away of absence, has carried out little to appear like something however an costly mistake since Ten Hag made his £85 million signing a precedence early final season.
Whereas outcomes will all the time dictate a supervisor’s destiny, their tactical acumen and skill to determine a participant are necessary components that may reinforce help from the boardroom and dressing room. We’re nonetheless ready for Ten Hag’s “Eureka!” second, nevertheless, when it comes to a transformative signing or match-winning tactical swap.
By instilling self-discipline and imposing exacting requirements on his gamers, Ten Hag is delivering on one key ingredient of his job description, however that isn’t sufficient for a membership of United’s stature. What issues most are outcomes and magnificence, and Ten Hag is falling brief in each of these areas.
Accidents should not serving to, and the fixed uncertainty surrounding the way forward for the membership’s homeowners, the Glazer household, is one other undesirable distraction. However what Ten Hag wants greater than something proper now could be a convincing efficiency and victory. Being a tricky man is not going to be sufficient to alleviate the strain.