Erik ten Hag’s reign as Manchester United coach is off to a nightmarish start. Fans and critics alike have been shouting about Erik ten Hag’s unsuccessful story. Few could have imagined just how bad things would be but, at this point, it would be fair to say there are no positives about any aspect of the club. The Red Devils have been convincingly beaten by both Brighton and Brentford this season. Star player Cristiano Ronaldo wants desperately to leave, and there are continuing fan protests about the club’s ownership and the same terrible players from the last few years are still churning out awful performances. The days when Erik ten Hag was going to overhaul United and turn them into an energetic attacking side already feel like a long time ago.
When Erik ten Hag arrived at United he gave the board a list of his first-choice signings that he would require to begin his rebuild. These were said to be Frenkie De Jong, Jurriën Timber and Darwin Núñez. The latter moved to city rivals Liverpool after United delayed making an early bid, Timber was convinced not to join by former United coach Loius van Gaal and De Jong has spent three months saying he has no intention of joining Manchester United. While that De Jong saga has been ongoing United has been chasing and failing to secure the signings of a myriad of talents across Europe. This has left Erik ten Hag doing the one thing that he really couldn’t afford to do this season and that is work with the same players that have seen multiple other managers sacked.
If it wasn’t evident under Mourinho, Solskjær and especially Ragnick for the Manchester United hierarchy then they cannot be helped. The likes of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Fred will never have the ability or personality to play at the highest level for a club like Manchester United. Ralf Ragnick made it clear that the club needed 10 new players and as he called it “open heart surgery”. As a result, the intelligent football mind tasked with rebuilding Manchester United was ostracised and his responsibilities were taken over by Richard Arnold and John Murtough. Men with no experience in building a club, one of which then went on to get recorded in the pub making false promises to fans that the manager would be backed in the transfer window. This has left Erik ten Hag in a terrible position. He has to play the very same players that have been accused of having too much player power, leaking to the press and also putting in garbage performances for at least two years.
The Wrong Players
It’s not just the attitude of the players that is the issue for Ten Hag, it is the style. This is a team largely put together by Mourinho and Solskjær. In other words, it was built around the relative counter-attacking styles of those two managers. At their best Solskjær’s side would defend deep and move the ball forward direct to the lightning-fast attackers. A style that had a low ceiling, but did lead to some impressive victories over the bigger sides. Unfortunately, it is also a style that is in complete contrast with what both Ralf Ragnick and Erik ten Hag want from a team. Sitting in deep hides the lack of pace that Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw suffer from. It also reduces the amount of pressing that the players do. Moving the ball forward directly meant that McTominay and Fred didn’t have to receive the ball from the defence under pressure. Long passes over the opposition defence benefitted the likes of Rashford and Martial as they lack the technical ability to break down teams that have had the time to get their defence behind the ball. Any attempt to play dominant attacking football immediately exposes the weaknesses of these players.
Moving the ball through the lines quickly, dominating possession and winning the ball back quickly requires players with a specific personality and skill set. There is a reason that both Manchester City and Liverpool use in-depth data analysis as well as the expertise of football’s brightest minds when making recruitment decisions. These clubs know that the incoming player simply must fit their system and not the other way around. That is why it was so alarming when Chief Manchester United Writer for the Manchester Evening News Samuel Luckhurst recently reported that some Manchester United players feel that Erik ten Hag’s style doesn’t suit them and they would like to see a more pragmatic approach against Liverpool. If true it confirms that Manchester United still suffers from dressing room leaks and that Erik Ten Hag’s unsuccessful start at United will continue with these same players. Even the players themselves don’t seem to believe they can fit that style.
Will Manchester United back Ten Hag as the transfer window comes to a close? Let us know what you think! If you enjoyed this content then follow me on Twitter @AzLynchy and also make sure to follow @FootballOTH for more football content!
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