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Erik ten Hag: Have United Finally got the Right Manager?


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Last updated 18/06/2024

Erik ten Hag: Have United Finally got the Right Manager?

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United have seemingly appointed the wrong manager at the wrong time at every opportunity, either that being because the squad didn't suit their style or because they weren't good enough for the top level, but with the appointment of Erik ten Hag, it finally seems that Man Utd have the right manager at the right time with the right squad.

After last season’s chaos, it was expected that this season was going to be a building season for ten Hag after they only won seven of their last 23 games under Ralf Rangnick and with losses to Brighton and Brentford to start the season, it looked to be more of the same, but since that defeat at the Brentford Community Stadium, ten Hag’s side have been much improved.

Since the heavy 4-0 defeat to Brentford, United have played 23 games in all competitions and have won 18 of them, drawing twice and losing three times with their league form, winning seven of their last ten games, finding them within touching distance of rivals Manchester City and seven points clear of main rivals Liverpool, of whom they finished 34 points behind last season.

It was the inconsistency of United that was a massive problem last season, with their longest winning streak in all competitions only being two games and in the Premier League they only managed three wins in a row once all season

However, this season under ten Hag, they are already much more consistent, already having winning streaks of three games or more four times and are currently on a six-game winning streak in all competitions and a four-game Premier League winning streak for the second time this season.

Defensive Improvements

The big reason behind this turnaround in form has been the defence which ten Hag has made look unrecognisable from last season, already keeping more clean sheets (11) this season than United managed in the whole of last season (10) with ten Hag’s side currently on a run of four straight clean sheets, whilst not even managing two games in a row last season.

The defensive improvement can go down the ten Hag as he has improved United’s pressing game but the signing of five-time Champions League winner Casemiro from Real Madrid has had a vast effect on this side, more than anyone could imagine.

When Casemiro first arrived, Scott McTominay was holding him out of the side, but after the 6-3 defeat in the derby against Manchester City, Casemiro has been ever present in the United midfield and the effects have been huge, as in those first nine games of the season, United kept three clean sheets, conceding 15 goals, but since that point Man Utd have only conceded eight goals in 15 games in which Casemiro has started, keeping ten clean sheets.

Casemiro’s partnership with his former Real Madrid colleague Raphael Varane has also been immense for United this season, with the pair sharing the pitch for a combined 501 minutes this season, equivalent to 5 and a half games, and have not conceded a single goal in that time.

Rashford Rejuvenation

With ten Hag seemingly devoting a lot of his first few months of his time at Man Utd on improving the structure of the team defensively, the attack hasn’t hit its potential yet with United only the ninth top-scoring side in the league, but the one man that has stepped up in front of goal this season has been Marcus Rashford.

Rashford last season was a shell of himself, looking abject of confidence after finally getting rid of the injuries that he had been playing with over the past couple of seasons, but this season looks rejuvenated and United have reaped the rewards with the England forward scoring 15 goals already this season in all competitions, compared to five last season.

It's the variation in Rashford’s game that has been new to this season, which could be down to new attacking coach Benni McCarthy, with Rashford in the past mainly cutting in from the left and shooting, but now his off-ball movement is getting him into great positions to get passes from teammates and his heading game is much improved, scoring two headed goals this season, after not scoring a header since boxing day 2019.

Since returning from the World Cup, Rashford has seemingly gone up another level, scoring in four straight games with each goal very different, with his goal against Burnley a great solo run on the right-hand side starting from his own half, against Nottingham Forest it was a smart movement to find an opening from a corner, against Wolves it took great strength, ball control and composure to hold off defenders and score at the near post and finally against Bournemouth he was the quickest to react and move to score a tap-in.

Could United be Title Challengers in the Future

Ten Hag has had to battle a lot in his early days as manager of Manchester United, with having to rejuvenate a squad that all vastly underperformed the season before, having to deal with the nightmare that was the Cristiano Ronaldo situation and now is having to focus on football whilst the Glazers are finally looking to sell the club.

When the Glazers sell up, it looks to be the last distraction ten Hag needs out of the way for him to finally put all his focus on the football side and have that reciprocated by new owners that care about what happens on the football pitch.

The problem in the past with the Glazers is that they were fine with just top-four finishes and challenging for the league wasn’t needed, but if new owners come in with ambition to win the league, ten Hag has already shown that he is the man for that job after doing amazing work to not only recover the club from the lows of last season, but the lows of the two losses to start this season.

Since matchday three this season, only Arsenal (38) have picked more points than Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United side (35), which goes to show that even with the Glazers still in power and still only in the first half of his first season, ten Hag can get United into title-winning form which can only be improved with the potential backing of new owners that want to see the glory days back at Old Trafford.