MAN UNITED FAN VIEW: The appointment of Erik ten Hag is a rare bold and positive move. Yes, it IS a gamble, but if he can sort out a dressing room who aren’t even trying, then it might just pay off
- Erik ten Hag has been confirmed as the next Manchester United manager
- Dutch coach joins from Ajax to undertake enormous rebuilding mission
- He somehow needs to reverse a decline that has lasted almost a decade now
- Defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal underlined the scale of the task awaiting him
- Lack of fight was an embarrassment for United in clash with their fiercest rivals
Manchester United have officially announced Erik ten Hag as their new manager and the mammoth rebuilding mission at Old Trafford can now begin.
Last week’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool illustrated the scale of the task at hand for the Dutch coach, and things didn’t get any better during Saturday’s defeat by Arsenal.
SCOTT PATTERSON, of the Republik of Mancunia website, writes for Sportsmail about what Ten Hag needs to do to restore United to past glories.
Erik ten Hag’s arrival at Manchester United is supposed to represent a new beginning.
Now approaching a decade since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, there is so much that the club has got wrong, from failed appointments, to football philosophies not in keeping with the history of United, and poor spending in the transfer market, that fans will be hoping this really is a break from what has become the new norm.
Currently in the midst of a title challenge with Ajax, United will have been keen to push the announcement of the new manager in an attempt to lift the dark clouds that have been swirling over Old Trafford for some time.
Erik ten Hag was officially announced as Manchester United’s next manager on Thursday
The task awaiting the Dutch coach is enormous, as highlighted by the thrashing at Liverpool
Things didn’t get any better against Arsenal on Saturday, with United beaten 3-1 in London
The most obvious change needed, highlighted painfully clearly by United’s display in the recent 4-0 defeat against Liverpool, is a shift in mentality among the players.
There’s no denying that Jurgen Klopp’s team are head and shoulders above United’s best side, so the injury ravaged XI was never going to be able to keep up in terms of ability.
But the least you should expect from your team, especially in a game against fiercest rivals, is to get stuck in and try. The frustration boiling over at being battered should have been evident but it was nowhere to be seen.
The task of reviving United has proved beyond interim manager Ralf Rangnick
For years United had a better team than Liverpool, looking at the players on the pitch and manager in the dug out, but you’d never see a game at Old Trafford or Anfield where one side looked so disinterested and uncommitted as Ralf Rangnick’s did last Tuesday.
It was appalling, and therefore no surprise that Hannibal Mejbri received the praise of fans and pundits alike for his brief cameo at the end of the match. He was the only one who looked like he cared, throwing himself about and chasing down the ball.
The teenager took to social media after the game to echo the sentiment fans had seen in him that evening. ‘Always an honour to wear this shirt. Always ready to fight for this badge.’
Gary Neville, who knows a thing or two about the fierce rivalry with Liverpool, said Hannibal was the only player who had demonstrated the heart and the soul to play for Manchester United Football Club.
Things didn’t get much better against Arsenal on Saturday either. Despite a better performance, United were still comfortably beaten by a side who didn’t have to be at their best to come away with all three points.
Before Ten Hag can even consider improving quality on the pitch, he needs to take serious action in the dressing room.
Whether that’s moving along the players who don’t want to be here, or at least, play like they don’t want to be, or having serious words to address their mentality, he has quite the job on his hands.
United supporters will certainly be keen to see who wears the armband next season too.
Youngster Hannibal Mejbri (right) was one of the few United players to show any fight
Cristiano Ronaldo rues a missed opportunity against Norwich, a rare victory of late for United
Ajax, though the biggest club in Holland, had gone three years without the title before his consecutive victories over the last two seasons. They are currently four games away from making it three in a row, currently four points clear of PSV.
After his predecessor was beaten in the preliminary rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League, Ten Hag led them to the Champions League semi-finals a season later.
Along the way, they knocked out holders Real Madrid and Italian champions Juventus, as well as drawing twice with the German champions Bayern Munich. This suggests he has the ability to turn underperforming players around.
While possibly a riskier appointment than some of the other managers in the running for the job, like Mauricio Pochettino who has plenty of Premier League experience, United are hoping the greater gamble produces the greater reward.
His Ajax side play fantastic football and he will obviously be looking to recreate that United.
United opted for Ten Hag (right) ahead of Mauricio Pochettino (left), who has previous Premier League experience with Southampton and Tottenham
Ten Hag’s Ajax team liked to play attractive and attacking football, something he will attempt to replicate at Old Trafford
Rangnick, the godfather of gegenpressing, has presumably attempted to coach this approach in to the current squad, but has failed miserably.
It’s unknown whether this is down to the manager ditching the plans after realising he doesn’t have suitable personnel, or because the players have refused to get on board.
Would Harry Maguire (pictured) and Victor Lindelof be comfortable playing out from the back?
Ten Hag favours counter-pressing and aggressive marking when out of possession, so it’ll be interesting to see if he has better luck in producing results from the squad he’s inheriting.
Playing out from the back, something Ten Hag employs at Ajax, is enough to give United fans nightmares given how woeful their back four have been on too many occasions this season, although it is something both Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof would fancy themselves as being capable of.
You can only imagine a new centre-back will be top of Ten Hag’s wish list in the summer.
The midfield is another area that United have needed bolstering for years and the new manager will be looking for players to fit his approach.
Donny van de Beek, who barely got a look in under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Rangnick, will be hoping he can get his career back on track and fulfil the role he did under Ten Hag at Ajax.
The midfielders will be encouraged to run in to the channels and support the attack far better than anything we’ve seen at recent years at United.
Ten Hag will also be looking to improve the output of the wide players, with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga needing to prove they are more competent at switching flanks, cutting inside and playing more intelligent final balls than we’ve seen this campaign.
Anthony Martial may be given another go to rediscover his best form too, after a failed loan stint in Seville, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ten Hag looks to recruit someone new.
Jadon Sancho will have to improve his output and be capable of switching between the wings
Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo both look unimpressed during the defeat by Arsenal
Up front, United are struggling, and that’s even if Cristiano Ronaldo honours the second year on his current contract.
Edinson Cavani will leave in the summer, after a desperately disappointing follow up campaign to an impressive debut season, and United will have to spend big to secure the world class No 9 they require.
Erling Haaland would have been the perfect forward but almost certainly will be moving to the other side of Manchester instead.
What will be pleasing for United supporters is the likelihood Ten Hag will continue the tradition of playing youth. United have had an academy graduate in every single match day squad for over 4,000 games, a remarkable record that dates back to 1937.
He has previously spoken of the importance of having former academy graduates in his team, and giving young players the chance they deserve.
Anthony Elanga (right) is one of those keeping the United youth tradition alive at present
During what has been a bitterly disappointing campaign for United, the one beacon of hope has been the performance of the youngsters, who will play in the FA Youth Cup final next month.
No club has had greater success in the competition but United last lifted the trophy over 10 years ago, with Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison in the side.
United have promising young players on their way up, with Mejbri and Elanga already getting game time, James Garner, Ethan Laird and Teden Mengi set to return from loan spells this summer, and Shola Shoretire, Alejandro Garnacho and Charlie McNeill all impressing at youth level. There is plenty of potential for Ten Hag to tap in to.
The new manager spoke of the honour he felt at managing United and his excitement over the ‘challenge ahead’.
United’s run to the final of this season’s FA Youth Cup has shown there is cause for optimism
It’s unlikely he has a genuine grasp of just how big that challenge is going to be though. So much work is needed and he has to be afforded the time to achieve his vision.
While there’s plenty of doom and gloom at United right now, with supporters wishing the season could end immediately, the promise of Ten Hag does allow for some hope.
The anti-Glazer protests will continue ahead of the Chelsea game this week, and it’s hard to imagine any real success while they are still owners, but the appointment of Ten Hag represents a rare bold and positive move from the club. United fans couldn’t be more desperate for him to prove his worth.
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