Erik ten Hag is still “six games away” at Manchester United. The Dutchman will still be judged by the results, but the truth is that even in this short period of time, the 52-year-old specialist has done a lot, starting with the most imperative.
His stay at Old Trafford started in the most nightmare way possible. No United manager had started with two consecutive defeats for over a hundred years. But it happened to Ten Haag, and, supposedly, he was supposed to become the savior to lift the club out of the mediocrity of the last ten years.
In his first two games, Ten Hag made the mistake that all managers before him in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era have made – he went with the flow. But after feeling the soil after only 180 minutes it was time for cardinal changes.
The Dutchman made the difficult decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. Four games in a row in which the Red Devils recorded four consecutive victories, including against Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s army and leaders Arsenal, who had previously won five in a row.
The same fate befell Captain Harry Maguire. With these two decisions, Ten Haag immediately won approval in the eyes of the fanswho for years have wanted the most basic thing – that the English defender be judged according to his game and deservedly give up his place in the starting line-up.
He played in his position Lisandro Martinez, who started hesitantly and caused a lot of doubts because of his height, but in the clashes with Liverpool and Arsenal he fully proved his nickname – Pitbull. The Argentine pushed, poked, “bited” and “torn” anyone who confronted him. With a mad willingness to lunge for every ball and, if necessary, put his head in the way of the ball in the style of Nemanja Vidic – United needed just such a “mad dog” to energize the team and get the crowd on their feet with every self-sacrificing intervention.
Meanwhile Tyrell Malacia made Luke Shaw’s place on the left of defense go cold. United now also have a skilled passer in midfield in the person of Christian Eriksenwho, despite the heart monitor and the fact that he came as a free agent, with his perfect passes on a thread becomes an extremely important part of the team.
Very soon, his place next to him will also be taken Casemirowho is expected to put the wavering performances of Scott McTominay and Fred on this post. It is true that the Scotsman is playing much better since the start of the new season, but he simply does not have the qualities to match the five-time Champions League winner.
At the same time Ten Haag “unlocked” Jaden Sanchobegins to return Marcus Rashford in the right way, and the hundred million Antoni made his debut with a goal against the “gunners”. And far from the least important – Bruno Fernandes again looking like the leader he was before Ronaldo’s return.
The Dutch manager made the Red Devils a team, not just multi-million dollar purchases that are difficult to understand on the pitch. The change can be seen in the attitude of the players towards each other – they cheer, cheer and congratulate each other at every key defensive intervention, and goals electrify the crowd because they feel that goals are now being scored not just because someone is chasing individual records, but because the whole team, as a whole, is looking for the most important thing – the victory.
With his squad changes and the good transfers he made (heavily supported by the Old Trafford bosses too, which shouldn’t be missed), Ten Hag achieved not only interchangeability in virtually every position, but also team play, but also eliminated United’s biggest flaw from last season – the dependence on Cristiano.
Ronaldo scored 18 goals in the Premier League last campaign, but United finished sixth in the table, which means they will not play in the Champions League. The Portuguese is yet to sign this season, but the Red Devils are on a four-match winning streak, beating Liverpool and Arsenal. Cristiano is now just one of everyone, with Ten Hag proving Sir Alex’s greatest maxim that no one should be bigger than the club, as the Portuguese tried to prove after spending all summer looking for a new team .
In just a few months of work (including pre-season training), Ten Haag found the right method of work, gradually imposing his style of play at Old Trafford. And as we already see – no one is guaranteed a starting place, because the most important things are the philosophy and the well-being of the team. From here on, it remains for United to continue with the positive results and start winning trophies. The foundation has already been laid.