India's Premier Lifestyle Destination For Men.


The Problems Awaiting Erik Ten Hag At Manchester United (And How He Should Fix Them)

Manchester United's new coach Erik ten Hag
A A A tT

Manchester United have been a rudderless ship ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, and the latest captain appointed to rescue the sinking wreckage is Erik Ten Hag. The Dutch coach will become Manchester United’s eighth manager over the past nine seasons and is taking over a club at its nadir, with the Red Devils lingering in sixth place on the table, 26 points behind leaders Manchester City despite having the highest wage bill in the league.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manchester United (@manchesterunited)

Ten Hag got the United job following an impressive stint at Ajax, which saw the team succeed both domestically and in Europe, winning two Eredivise titles – soon to be three – and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019. However, despite all his prior success, the Dutchman will be walking into a completely different beast in Manchester, with the expectations and scrutiny surrounding the most successful club in English football unlike anything he experienced in his time in the Netherlands. Despite all the promise Ten Hag brings as a manager, United are a club plagued with mediocrity and underperformance, and it’s going to take a monumental effort from the Ajax coach to revive the fallen giant and bring back the halcyon days that seem to be fading from memory with every passing year.

Here are the problems awaiting Erik ten Hag at Manchester United and the possible steps he could take to fix them.

The Dressing Room

One of the main priorities for Erik ten Hag in his first season at Old Trafford is to fix the culture of the dressing room. Enough has been said over the past few months about the disjointed nature of the United squad, and as Unai Emery, Jose Mourinho, and other managers of Big 6 clubs have learned in the recent past, if you don’t control the dressing room and demand the respect of the players, you won’t get far on the pitch.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manchester United (@manchesterunited)

If Ten Hag is given complete control at United to implement his vision, there are bound to be casualties, and the Dutchman needs to be allowed to weed out any bad apples which could harm the balance and harmony of the squad.

Paul Pogba is out of contract in the summer and has presumably already played his last game in a Manchester United jersey, but others could join him in leaving Old Trafford this summer. As detailed previously, Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence complicates matters in Manchester, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Ten Hag’s first move as manager would be to organise a swift exit for the Portuguese superstar.

The Dutchman needs a mouldable group of players who fit his style of play, and despite all of his brilliance and goal-scoring abilities, at age 37, there is a lot of baggage that accompanies the five-time Ballon d’Or winner on the pitch. 

The Recruitment

Manchester United’s recruitment strategy in recent seasons has been to get the best player that is available, rather than the one best-suited to fulfil the manager’s vision on the pitch. Donny van de Beek, Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan Bissaka, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire were all bought for more than £40 million over the past three years, but have regressed in their time at Manchester because they haven’t been utilised correctly. Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, was a statement signing from a commercial point of view but didn’t align with the club’s trajectory on the pitch.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manchester United (@manchesterunited)

The flawed recruitment strategy can be reflected in the results on the pitch, with United closer to the relegation spots than Manchester City in terms of points. Ten Hag will have to reverse this trend of upon his arrival in Manchester and sign the correct profiles who can carry out his vision.

For 2022/23, the most pressing needs for United are in central midfield and attack. Barring Scott McTominay, United have very little depth and quality in the middle of the park and would need at least one or two new players that are adept at retaining possession and screening the back four. Upfront, Mason Greenwood’s arrest, Marcus Rashford’s decline, and Edinson Cavani’s impending departure have complicated matters, leaving a soon-to-be 38-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo as the only natural centre-forward at the club next season.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manchester United (@manchesterunited)

Amongst the players that should be on United’s radar, Aurelien Tchouameni must be on top of their wishlist in central midfield, while Benfica’s Darwin Nunez, Napoli’s Victor Oshimen or Roma’s Tammy Abraham would be excellent additions at striker.

The Style of Play

Erik Ten Hag is a modern manager in the mould of Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Tuchel, but it would be foolish to think that the Dutchman can instantly mould United into a well-oiled machine well versed with the intricacies of positional play within one season.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Chris Bailey PT (@cbfitnesspt)

Erik Ten Hag’s style of play at Ajax focused on a high-pressing possession game with a massive emphasis on width, but United have lacked a clear identity on the pitch since the days of Jose Mourinho. Despite pulling off some impressive results, Solskjaer and Rangnick have relied on individual talent to get the Red Devils through games, and both managers have struggled to instil a distinct style with concrete patterns of play.

Reports coming out of Old Trafford suggest that the current United squad haven’t been too receptive to coaching instructions over the past few seasons and have largely been left to their own devices by the coaching staff. Having not previously worked under a top-level modern coach, Ten Hag’s arrival is likely to be a major culture shock to most players in the United squad, and it will take at least three transfer windows – if not more – before United can think of competing with the top sides in England.

Although Ten Hag’s arrival brings a certain degree of optimism around Old Trafford, expectations must be tempered. The Dutchman may be United’s answer to Klopp, Guardiola and Tuchel, but unlike their rivals, United haven’t been operating like a successful club in the recent past, and it would take a major overhaul in Manchester before the return glory days return.


[Featured Image Credit: Manchester United]