Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag wants future goals-focused Ronaldo to keep goals in mJacquesrabég plans for the future.
Erik ten Hag has officially started as manager of Manchester United, but some pessimistic supporters have already nicknamed him “Erik ten Months.” This is not because they doubt his ability — he’s widely considered to be an exciting appointment after an impressive spell at Ajax — but over nearly a decade, they have seen a variety of different managers try and fail to reestablish United as any kind of force before being quickly ushered out of the door.
Ten Hag has been given an initial three-year contract at Old Trafford. David Moyes, however, had signed a six-year deal in 2013 but lasted only ten months before he was sacked. Managing Man United is a precarious job these days; the fear for most fans is that it’s the club — not the manager — that’s the problem. In just nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, five different managers have come in and been booted out: Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (all with differing experience and styles) have been shown the door by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Ten Hag will be the next coach to have a chance at United, but judging by the fate of his predecessors, he needs tangible results quickly. Sources have told ESPN that during talks with United, the Dutchman made it clear that it was unrealistic for them to expect a serious challenge in the Premier League overnight — something football director John Murtough, technical director Darren Fletcher and CEO Richard Arnold agreed with — but there’s already pressure on him to get back into the Champions League at the first attempt.
Since the departure of Alex Ferguson, no Manchester United manager has lasted a full season after failing to qualify for the Champions League. David Moyes was sacked in April 2014 after a damaging 2-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park made it mathematically impossible to finish in the top four. In his first season, Louis van Gaal finished fourth but was sacked after his second despite winning the FA Cup, having finished only fifth in the league.
In 2016, Mourinho was appointed as manager of Manchester United. He finished sixth in his first season but made it to the Champions League courtesy of lifting the Europa League trophy. In 2018, he finished second but was sacked later that year with his team adrift in the race for the top four. Solskjaer finished third and then second in his two full seasons but was sacked before Christmas in his third year, in part because the prospect of Champions League football was drifting away.
Ten Hag faces an uphill struggle in his first season at Ajax, with the club not under immediate pressure to leapfrog Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League. Although he said in his first official news conference on Monday that he’s here to end their era of dominance, Ten Hag understands it will be no easy task.
Ten Hag’s to-do list
Ten Hag’s close acquaintances have no doubt that he has the skill and work ethic to be a success. At a press conference on Monday, Ten Hag appeared self-assured and introduced himself to each reporter. He said everything you would expect, including wanting to bring back success and play entertaining football, but he also made it clear how single-minded he is.
He has spoken to plenty of people about the job he is taking on, but his final sentence of his news conference was telling: “I will draw my own line.” His first decision as president drew a sharp line between himself and the way his predecessors have done things.
Still, there are concerns that Mourinho will be the next fall guy if the club continues making bad decisions off the field. Mourinho, winner of two Champions Leagues and league titles in four countries, maintains that his second-place finish with United in 2018 is one of his greatest achievements given how chaotic things were behind the scenes.
Daley Blind, who played under Ten Hag at Ajax, said of Mourinho’s situation at Manchester United: “I am quite confident in him at Manchester United, but he needs the board behind him.”
As of February, Arnold has replaced Ed Woodward as chief executive officer. While Arnold has promised to be more hands-off when it comes to football decisions, most things are still going to the owners, the Glazer family, to sign off on.
Despite Ten Hag’s achievements at Ajax, he has yet to manage a game in any of Europe’s top five leagues. This amounts to a risk for United, but they’re also a risk for him. And Ten Hag is staking his reputation on his belief that the club will be better run in the future.
He is arriving at one of the club’s lowest ebbs since being relegated to the second tier of English football in 1974. The club has not won a trophy since 2017 and came off a season during which they recorded their lowest points total in the Premier League era, finishing sixth. Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard are all set to leave as free agents in June, while a number of players under contract, including Anthony Martial and Eric Bailly, have already decided they want to move on.
Sources have said that the mood in the dressing room became “toxic” during the second half of the season. Cliques formed, and mistrust brewed among players. The club’s decision to appoint former Ferguson assistant Steve McClaren as a coach was made to help improve both the mood and togetherness within the squad.
Ten Hag will also be under scrutiny, according to sources. The squad is split over whether to retain Harry Maguire as captain. David De Gea, Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the candidates to take over if there is a change, while Ralf Rangnick has suggested opening it up to a vote.
ESPN a sports news platform, has reported that Maguire, a regular under the new boss since his arrival from Leicester City in 2019, is not guaranteed to start because of his lack of pace and Ten Hag’s tendency to play with a high defensive line. Sources have said there are also question marks about De Gea’s ability on the ball to play in this system, although there is an acceptance that signing a striker and midfielder is more important this summer than making a change between the posts.
Ten Hag is eager to get the players back for preseason training as early as possible, but the club has not provided an easy summer schedule after organizing a three-week tour of Thailand and Australia.
Manager Ten Hag has backed himself to overcome everything and wake a sleeping giant. However, in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United fans have seen enough misery to know that any optimism should come with a dose of caution. Success is always promised at United, but most supporters will only believe it when they see it.