Does Erik ten Hag deserve more time?

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Erik ten Hag has been scrutinised since before he even sat in the Old Trafford dugout. Many media outlets and ex-players called for Mauricio Pochettino to be appointed, and from the offset, ten Hag has had his back against the wall. In the two years that have followed, ten Hag’s time in Manchester can be summed up in one word: inconsistent.

His highs of a Carabao Cup win and a third-place Premier League finish in his first year in charge has been followed by a season that could see the red side of Manchester fall to their lowest Premier League finish ever, with calls for him to lose his job. However, I would argue he deserves one season at least, under new INEOS ownership,  to attempt to bring silverware back to Old Trafford.

Ten Hag has been criticised for many things since his appointment in 2022, with some saying he is stubborn, and far too easily falls out with his players. Examples of this include the termination of club legend Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract after a dispute over playing time, and a disagreement of a similar vein with Jadon Sancho. Critics will say ten Hag’s man management has been poor, however disregard the fact that Manchester United have an issue with player mentality. Too many times have they seen players give up and go against managers. It was evident to fans that the players had given up on Ole Gunnar Solskjær before his sacking.

Manchester United have an issue with player mentality

Manchester United need a strong leader, who will fight against the players who have ran the Old Trafford dressing room for so long. United must recognise that after five full-time managers in 10 years, the players who have been there through this time must bear some responsibility for the club’s struggles. Most are simply not good enough for Manchester United. If the players keep the same attitude, it does not matter who the Manchester United manager is, they will not win anything of note.

Tactically, the current United boss has been criticised, with people struggling to determine his style of play. It is not the fault of the manager that the players he has available to him can not play the way he wants them to. This season, Manchester United have struggled greater with injures than they have in any Premier League season, missing key players, mainly in defence. The likes of Lisandro Martínez and Luke Shaw have missed most of the season. This has affected how ten Hag plays his football, resorting to playing counterattacking based systems, which is not his preferred style.

In his first season, ten Hag deployed a squad with a high defensive line, who are able to pass the ball, while players move quickly in attack. The only current defender United have that perfectly fits this system is Martínez, and with the club unable to find a suitable replacement in the January transfer window, Ten Hag has been forced to adapt, playing less effective football. If he had a squad with players who could play his style, injuries would be less of an issue. However, due to the constant cycle of managers over the past decade, Ten Hag is left with a mixture of players he did not sign, and do not fit his style.

Due to the constant cycle of managers over the past decade, Ten Hag is left with a mixture of players he did not sign, and do not fit his style.

Ten Hag proved in his first season that he can win, and that he can do it with youth. Manchester United fans, though understandably disappointed with the results ten Hag has produced this season, must applaud him for the development of academy stars. Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho have become two of Manchester United’s most important players, and in a club with a rich history of academy graduates doing important things, this has surely brought a smile to Mancunian faces. Youth development is one thing ten Hag has proved in his career he can do, particularly his 2018/2019 Ajax team, and the club would benefit from allowing him to continue this for one more season.

Since 2005, Manchester United has been ran by business-minded individuals. Under Sir Alex Ferguson this was not really an issue. However, since his departure in 2013, it has become clear that United need to be ran by people who understand football, and this is what Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group aim to do. Ratcliffe claims to be a United fan, and therefore should be aware of how well ten Hag did in his first season, as well as all the issues he has had to face in his time at United. He should see his potential with the youth and understand how the club would benefit if his guidance continued.

It would be foolish for United to sack the Dutchman instead of backing him in the summer transfer window. INEOS should be keen to see what he is capable of with a stable staff behind him.

Image: Кирилл Венедиктов via Wikimedia Commons

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