Why ten Hag is the Next Piece in Manchester United’s Project

Jacob Walstow

Why ten Hag is the Next Piece in Manchester United’s Project

Manchester United are a side who for the past nine years, have been drifting from project to project hoping to restore themselves to their former glory.

The Old Trafford club are the most decorated club in English football with 66 trophies and fell to a humiliating 4-1 defeat against their city rivals on Sunday, a team that used to live in the shadows of the Red Devils. So, what needs to happen at United and who will be the manager to bring success back to a side that has now gone five years without a trophy.

Manchester United Manager First Day of the 2022/23 Season Odds

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ERIK TEN HAG @ 2/1

The Season so far

‘Ole’s at the wheel’ was the chant that echoed around Old Trafford for three years and for a while, it seemed that United were making progress. A second-placed finish last season plus the additions of star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane led many to believe that Solskjær’s side could form a title challenge.

17 points from their first 12 games, however, meant the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea were already out of sight and the Norwegian was out of a job. Former RB Leipzig and Schalke manager, Ralf Rangnick, was parachuted in until the end of the season to try and scrape a 4th place finish.

What Rangnick’s time has highlighted if anything is the major overhaul needed at Manchester United.
Players such as Marcus Rashford looks like a shadow of himself, not scoring a goal in eight games, Jesse Lingard was seemingly denied against his will a move to Newcastle or West Ham in January and Harry Maguire again made a basic blunder at the Etihad on Sunday.

The United captain is now part of a defence that has conceded 38 goals so far this season, more than any United team has conceded at this stage of a Premier League campaign.

A stop-gap wasn’t what United needed, and with the German’s side now looking as if they’ll lose out on 4th to a resurgent Arsenal, it looks like Thursday night football will be commonplace at United again next season.

Premier League Top 4 Finish 2021/22

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MANCHESTER UTD @ 9/2

Ten Hag is the Right man to Lead United Forward

Exciting ideas, experience at a high level and someone who can work under high pressure is exactly what Manchester United need. Their search might just have to travel over the North Sea to Amsterdam, where Erik ten Hag lies and could be the perfect solution.

Nearly all of his playing and managerial career has been in his homeland of the Netherlands, with the exception of coaching Bayern Munich II.

The 52-year-old has been involved with some of the biggest clubs in the Netherlands such as FC Twente, PSV and Ajax. His time at Ajax is where ten Hag has made a name for himself, winning two Eredivisie titles and getting his side to a Champions League semi-final, being a minute away from a victory over Spurs.

Ajax looks on course to win the title again this season and are likely to make it to this year's Champions League quarter-finals if they can beat Benfica at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Ten Hag has opted for two decisive playstyles whilst managing de Godenzonen. His famous 2018/19 side centred around a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a strong spine in the team including the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Frankie de Jong, Donny Van de Beek and Dusan Tadic providing defensive stability, holding the likes of Bayern Munich as well as attacking flair, blasting away the European Giants of Real Madrid and Juventus.

Ten Hag’s ability has been shown in refreshing the team following its disbandment after Ajax’s success, changing to a 4-3-3 formation. This has proved fruitful with Sebastian Haller tearing defences apart in Europe, producing 12 Champions League goals already this season as Ajax won all six of their group games.

United’s Squad Needs an Ajax-Esque Rebuild

The Dutchman certainly knows how to rebuild a team, and this is what would have to happen for him to be successful at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani are all out of contract in the summer and it looks like all four will be leaving Manchester.

Specific positions will have to be drastically improved as well for United to think about mounting a credible title push.

The right-hand side at United is definitely an Achilles heel, with Aaron Wan Bissaka failing to make a strong defensive foothold, averaging only 0.7 blocks a game, indicating that he’s easy to get at. The right midfielder has also struggled, with Rashford struggling to get into any sort of form and Rangnick currently relying on the 19-year-old Swede, Anthony Elanga, for creativity.

Defensive midfield options also lack at Old Trafford, with an ageing Nemanja Matic being their only one, with Fred and Scott McTominay playing as a duo in an attempt to compensate for a lack of out and out choices there, whilst neither of the Red Devil’s left-backs looks up to scratch. All of the above have led to United lacking cohesion across the pitch.

The first twenty years of the Premier League saw Manchester United dominate. The last ten has seen the Red Devils slip further and further away from glory. If ten Hag is to come in to start a new project, time will be needed as the tide might not turn straight away. But in football, time is a commodity usually ill afforded.


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