Erik ten Hag has been criticised heavily of late. The Dutchman is under fire at Old Trafford and he was recently forced to describe himself as a &aposfighter&apos who is trying to improve things in M16.
Im confident I can do it, but at this moment we are in a bad place, he said. I take responsibility but I see it as a challenge. I have to stick together with my players and fight together.”
MEN Sport understands Ten Hag&aposs position is under no immediate threat, but his team has definitely regressed this term.
United spent not far short of 200million on reinforcements over the course of the summer transfer window. Such spending was supposed to deliver improvements, but the opposite is happening.
Injuries haven&apost helped Ten Hag&aposs cause with the likes of Luke Shaw, Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia spending time on the sidelined but supporters expected more. United exited the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night after losing 3-0 against Newcastle United, with Ten Hag&aposs position coming under even more scrutiny.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, five permanent managers have taken charge of United, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coming before Ten Hag – they have lasted an average of around 117 matches. Ten Hag has overseen a total of 77 games so far.
While Ten Hag retains the support of those above, if he does suffer the same fate as the managers before him since Ferguson retired then the latest replacement seems unlikely to have an impact. At some point, those making the decisions at boardroom level must realise that United&aposs fortunes are predominantly decided by the players on the pitch.
Ferguson knew that better than anybody. He was a special leader but he needed the players to do their jobs. Perhaps his biggest and most underrated strength was his know-how regarding how to construct an effective squad, recognising when certain players were declining and also picking up on emerging wonderkids before his rivals.
The Scot had a huge influence on the development of his players, but his ability to acquire gems from the market was largely unrivalled during his tenure. From Wayne Rooney to Eric Cantona, from Cristiano Ronaldo to Rio Ferdinand and everybody in between, Ferguson knew a player when he saw one.
The 13-time Premier League winner also demonstrated a ruthless streak when the time for change arrived, cutting ties with the likes of Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Beckham as a means of fostering evolution. He was a rare breed, but United still seem intent on using that same model for success, even though football is no longer the same as it was back then.
Casemiro and Christian Eriksen both made a real difference for Ten Hag last term. The duo provided a boost for the team&aposs midfield department but they are both now 31 and their impact is waning.
Since being appointed, Ten Hag has signed a host of players whom he&aposs worked with in the past as he&aposs been empowered to take the lead in the market like Ferguson once did. He&aposs bought players who he knows and raided the Eredivisie.
Moyes did the same with Marouane Fellaini. Mourinho purchased Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaka, with Van Gaal leaning towards his homeland by signing the likes of Memphis Depay and Daley Blind.
United&aposs identity is always changing. If Ten Hag was to depart from his role tomorrow, the same process would unfold unless something more profound was to happen higher up in the chain. He is a coach; not a scout, and not a sporting director.
“We are in the same direction,” said Pep Guardiola recently about his club&aposs success. “Me, the chief executive, the sporting director, the chairman. That is why I think the club is so stable.”