Erik ten Hag has proven to be a tough manager Manchester United needed when he was hired as coach at the end of the dismal 2022/23 season. But the former Ajax The coach runs the risk of the footballing side of his job at Old Trafford faltering.
The 53-year-old said last Friday he inherited a “culture of good-for-nothing” when he joined the club 16 months ago and he had tried with courage and determination to deal with the malaise within the squad. Of requiring players to run eight miles on the training ground as punishment for running eight miles less Brentford in a 0-4 defeat in August 2022 for a public call Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford And Jadon Sancho Ten Hag has demonstrated his authority by failing to meet his standards on and off the field. And despite the disciplinary problems he encountered on a roster in need of a major overhaul – as ESPN reported last month – Since taking office, he has changed almost 20 players – Ten Hag led United to third place and reached two grand finals last season, winning one of them Carabao Cup.
But all is not well at Old Trafford. The Premier LeagueThe largest and (at least historically speaking) most successful club is now on the brink of another crisis. With consecutive away games at Bayern Munich in the Champions League And Burnley Things could get worse in the Premier League this week before they get better. United’s history since Sir Alex Ferguson’s resignation in 2013 shows a worrying trend of managers hitting turmoil after an impressive first season and then failing to turn the tide back in their favour. Ten Hag hasn’t reached that point yet, but the storm clouds are gathering and results – the yardstick by which all managers are measured – are deteriorating.
Since ending Man United’s six-year trophy drought with victory in the Carabao Cup final against Man United Newcastle United On February 26, Ten Hag’s team took a worrying nosedive in form and results. Up to and including the 2-0 win against Eddie Howe’s side at Wembley, Ten Hag’s United had won 72.5% of their games in all competitions. Since that day, United’s win rate has fallen to 51.9% and their continued decline in form has now seen them make the club’s worst start to a season since 1989/90, losing three of their first five games this season. Away from home, United have picked up just one point from a possible 27 in games against top 10 opponents and have picked up just three wins from their last 10 away games at Old Trafford in all competitions.
Tactically, Ten Hag also struggled to prove to be a positive game-changer. In the 7-0 defeat Liverpool in March he was deployed as a center forward Wout Weghorst as No. 10, Rashford as the lone striker and placed Bruno Fernandes on the left without exploiting the defensive weaknesses of Liverpool’s right-back Trent Alexander Arnold. He was also outwitted by Pep Guardiola FA Cup Final defeat against Manchester Cityduring Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford it came after Seagulls coach Roberto De Zerbi needed less than 20 minutes to undo Ten Hag’s tactical ploy of playing with a diamond formation in midfield.
Ten Hag has plenty of credit in the bank since last season. The United hierarchy hired him with the full expectation that it would take time to get the team truly competitive again, and Ten Hag arguably over-delivered in his first season as manager. But so did Jose Mourinho when he won the Carabao Cup and Europe League in his debut season. The previous Chelsea, Inter Milan And real Madrid The coach was unable to move on before losing his job four months into his third spell in charge after his relationship with his bosses at Old Trafford and the club’s players broke down.
The failure to secure the signings he wanted, coupled with United’s reluctance and/or inability to part with players he did not want – Anthony Martial The most notable example of this is that he created a sense of resentment in Mourinho that hastened his downfall. Ten Hag performed better than Mourinho when it came to achieving his goals, but this success in achieving the goals he wanted could still be detrimental to him if results continue to stagnate.
Wants midfielder Mason Mount and goalkeeper Andre Onana Really make United better? Is a center forward Rasmus Hojlund really a better long term bet than Harry Kane? Was Ten Hag right to push for the midfielder? Sofian Amrabat in the final days of the transfer window? The answers to these questions will come with time, but it’s fair to say that Ten Hag misjudged Weghorst’s ability to make an impact after he arrived on loan from Burnley in January Anthony, who is on leaveSince making his £85million contract a priority at the start of last season, Ten Hag has done little that looked like a costly mistake.
While results always determine a manager’s fate, his tactical skills and ability to identify a player are important factors that can reinforce boardroom and dressing room support. We’re still waiting for Ten Hag’s “Eureka!” moment, however, in terms of a transformative signing or game-winning tactical switch.
By instilling discipline in his players and holding them to high standards, Ten Hag fulfills a key element of his job description, but that is not enough for a club of United’s stature. What matters most is results and style, and Ten Hag falls short in both areas.
Injuries aren’t helping and the constant uncertainty over the future of the club’s owners, the Glazer family, is another unwelcome distraction. But what Ten Hag needs more than anything right now is a convincing performance and a win. Being a tough guy won’t be enough to ease the pressure.