Showing posts with label Erik ten Hag. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erik ten Hag. Show all posts

Can Erik ten Hag break the losing jinx of post-Ferguson managers against City?

188th Manchester derby arrives with the red half at a slight disadvantage of not having played a league game since 3-1 win over Arsenal on 4th September, which was their fourth consecutive victory after two disastrous defeats at the start of 2022-23 English Premier League campaign. While City are in-form winning five and drawing two with target man Erling Haaland scoring 11 of their 23 goals and Kevin de Bruyne already notched up six assists this early in the season. Reds have only scored eight goals and conceeded similar number. This highlights a major gulf between the two sides despite United turning things around, lot of work lies ahead to close the gap.

David Moyes lost 1-4 in his first league match against City, Louis van Gaal lost 0-1, Jose Mourinho lost 1-2 at home,  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost 0-2 at home as interim manager but won both home and away fixtures next season as permanent manager, Ralf Rangnick also lost 1-4. Another grim reminder of United falling behind their local rivals who have won the Premier League in four of last five seasons. Sir Alex Ferguson triumphed 2-0 over City in 1987 when United finished 11th and City were relegated in the old First Division with 22 teams amid Liverpool-Everton dominance. Overall United still edge the derby stats with 77 wins to 57 with 53 games being draws and will take at the minimum 10 years to eclipse if City will all home and away games.

Erik ten Hag has already shown glimpses of turning things around and if he remains in-charge will United will not need 10 years to win the Premier League again. After Sir Matt Busby it took United 26 excruciating years and now after Sir Alex Ferguson it already has been 9 seasons. Erik ten Hag has managed to lose just one of eight 'Der Klassieker' derby in Dutch league against rivals Feyenoord. In is short span he has managed to out-wit Jurgen Kloop to win 2-1 vs Liverpool and won less convincingly against Arsenal 3-1. He knows what this fixture means for local fans and to continue the momentum of last four games.

Erik ten Hag won 'Manager of the month' award and Marcus Rashford won the 'Player of the month' awards simultaneously for the September. International break saw the best of Diogo Dalot, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes for Portugal, Casemiro and Fred for Brazil (Anthony came on as sub in both games), Lisandro Martinez for Argentina, Luke Shaw for England, Tyrell Malacia for Netherlands, Christian Eriksen for Denmark, Raphael Varane for France who won with him 2-0 and lost without 0-2 vs Denmark. Harry Maguire the United captain drew the biggest criticism for the penalty conceded against Germany. While England boss Gareth Southgate backed his man as expected, his injury rules him out of the derby.

Jadon Sancho can be the star of this match. Not being named in the squad for England during the International break should have given him more time to prepare and get himself back in the squad for the World Cup. He has played with Haaland while at Dortmund and can share his first-hand tips to stop the Premier League top goalscorer. Sancho who also came from the City academy and will cherish to score against them in order to firmly be entrenched as United folk hero. A certain parallel with Ryan Giggs cannot escape attention. Anthony Martial will be on subs bench.

Two most important players will be the fullbacks Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia, both just 23 with the task of stopping crosses meant for Erling Haaland. Scott McTominay based on his excellent form continues to displace the Brazilian Casemiro from the first team. Lisandro Martinez has not allowed Haaland to score in three games the duo have played head-to-head in their Ajax vs Dortmund stints bodes well for the Argentinian who came under scathing examination for his short stature in the English media. United must look to cash in on injury to John Stones who misses this game and his replacement Laporte who is returning from injury. A solid performance against the best team in the country sans the result will still soothe the fans and that post-Ferguson jinx might be looked at based on Erik ten Hag's eventual success or failure.

Glazers break the ceiling after #GlazersOut reaches a crescendo

Every new manager of Manchester United barring David Moyes was handed about 140 million to spend on new players. Louis van Gaal brougth Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind. Jose Mourinho used it on Paul Pogba, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic(free). Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had Harry Maguire, Aaron wan Bissaka, Daniel James. Same was the expected outlay for Erik ten Hag except for two factors. First was footballing one where six players who came to the end of their contracts left although that freed up the wage bill enourmously. Second reason needs examination of chain of events that unfolded.

During a visit to a local pub chief executive Richard Arnold engaged with fans and answered all questions forthrightly where he disclosed the summer transfer budget to be about 200 million. Having parted ways with outspoken Ralf Rangnick the club decided to discard his suggestions of needing upto ten new players after the loss to Liverpool and ended their interest in targets that belonged to the Red Bull group whom the German had been associated in the past.

United and Erik ten Hag started the window by targetting the Barcelona and Dutch international Frenkie de Jong. Barcelona were in financial turmoil and needed to raise cash to revamp their squad and register them with La Liga who follow more stricter guidelines of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules. This interest was sustained through out the transfer window despite the player repeatedly stressing his desire to stay with the Catalans. Arnold and director of football John Murtough visited Barcelona and increased their offer from 65 to 75 million to cover the deferred wages the player had been owed in order to complete the transfer. de Jong represents the Barcelona identity in Johan Cruyff mould and from the same Ajax acedemy where he honed his skills. Selling him would have betrayed the ethos of the club and the player was never wanting to leave unless forced. Barcelona meanwhile sold percentage of media rights to raise sufficient cash to not force the sale. United did not get their target.

United had only one new player for pre-season Tyrell Malacia and another two new before the season started in Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez. Having comprehensively lost the opening game of English Premier League to Brighton with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo angling to leave, the club were in disarray. United hierarchy responded by chasing Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic for 7 million and Adrien Rabiot for 15 million! You cannot be serious!! Scott Patterson and other fans wrote to Richard Arnold questioning why the club were on the verge of signing a rascist? United backed off. Rabiot demands were excessive, thank god. Back to the drawing board. Brentford gave United a massive shock with a 4-0 thrashing in just 35 minutes of first half. Fans group 'The__1958' had organised protests against the Glazer ownership of the greatest English footballing institution before the match against arch rivals Liverpool. This time there was lot of media scrutiny into Glazers taking dividends out, not putting their money into the club, increasing debt, lack of investment into Old Trafford and Carrington etc. Something big had to be done to reclaim the focus on football which is a 'results driven business'.

United agreed a fee of 70 million with Real Madrid for their Brazilian central defensive midfielder Casemiro with the player present in the stands during the match against Liverpool. Reputed Spanish football expert Graham Hunter speaking to Off The Ball said this might result in Real not winning La Liga such is the importance of Casemiro to that squad. Following the win against Liverpool, United went back to Ajax to persuade them to sell Anthony whom Erik ten Hag had coached to become a full Brazil international. 84.5 million fee was accepted by United which shows the degree to which the manager believes in the player and the club backed it up. Worlds best wingers have mainly come from Manchester United with Geroge Best, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo or Brazil with Garrincha, Jairzinho, Rivellino. Sir Alex Ferguson chased Ronaldinho. Anthony becomes United's first Brazilian winger finally. United ended the window with spend of 226 million second only to Chelsea under new ownership and signed keeper Martin Dubravka on loan from Newcastle United to provide competition for David de Gea. 

United had lost seven consecutove away games a feat which had not occured since mid 1930's and now managed to win two back to back away gaimes against Southampton and Leicester by a single goal with same starting XI that does not include Ronaldo, Maguire, Shaw. Arsenal the only team with 100% winning record to top the table presents a real test for Erik ten Hag's team. Casemiro and Ronaldo came on as substitues in last two games and could start against the Gunners. Anthony would eventually start on the right wing while Jadon Sancho switches to the left; either of these would be vying to wear the coveted #7 shirt after the tenure of Ronaldo ends. Goal scoring record and adaptability of Ronaldo will also result in him being included in the starting XI which looks like: de Gea(GK), Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, Anthony, Ronaldo, Sancho

Five of starting XI have been changed in first transfer window itself of Erik ten Hag, massive. Lisandro Martinez has already won United's player of the month award, Malacia had Salah in his pocket in his first game for United, Eriksen spraying the passes from the deep to push Fernandes into goal scoring positions, over to Casemiro and Anthony now for 'o jogo bonito'. Without head of recruitment United under Richard Arnold seem to have come to grips with the situation by changing their response by accepting feedback and listening to genuine fans. From van Gaal, Mourinho to Solskjaer it was the second summer transfer window which deeply dissapointed. Win always gives a breather to correct and Arnold has time till next summer to prepare and learn from past mistakes.

Erik ten Hag cracks the whip

Erik ten Hag stamped his authority by dropping Ronaldo, captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw for the crucial do or die match against Liverpool at Old Trafford. He clearly stated the reason to drop Maguire and Shaw was to "want mobility and agility" in defense. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez as the latest centre-back pairing combined well with full-backs Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia to produce one of the best defensive displays in recent memory despite giving a goal away. Arrivals of Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Cavani, Ronaldo had stunted the game time of Martial in particular and Rashford but the duo were given their chance on Monday night to combine for the second goal. Entire team were proactive and took the game to Liverpool in stark contrast to previous two games as revealed by the distance covered of 114km vs just 95km in earlier matches.

Scott McTominay covered the pitch with thought and restraint while Christian Eriksen sprayed the passes. Elanga had a wonderful chance to open the score but hit the post. Not to be detered Jadon Sancho received the ball in crowded penalty area and reversed his movement to out do the marker and slot in a direction pointed by Captain for the day, Bruno Fernandes to score. Old Trafford erupted in joy. Liverpool then upped their game and domintaed the rest of first half. After restart Anthony Martial replaced Elanga on the left and his weighted pass found Marcus Rashford who might have been just off-side and beat the keeper to make it 2-0. Liverpool scored with 9 minutes left to setup a finale but United's high spirit tended to that and even enabled a triple substitution of Ronaldo, van de Beek, wan Bissaka for Rashford, Eriksen, Dalot in 86th minute.

Before the kick-off #GlazersOut protests started from Media centre towards Old Trafford through the Munich tunnel and chants continued throughout the game. Hugh McIlvanney of the Times lamented in 2005 about "supporters are cannon fodder in football’s money wars, virtually guaranteed victimhood."  while Brian Glanville took direct aim at the Glazers "Utterly ignorant of soccer, owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers American gridiron club, obsessed by the urge to make money from childhood,.. he is the very incarnation of capitalism red in tooth and claw." After the disastrous touting of European Super League by the Glazers who reached out to fans in order to appease them 16 years after their massively leveraged take over, the English media in general have finally woken up. 

Kaveh Solhekol of Sky Sports started pointing out the reasons for United's downfall despite United being on a 5-game winning streak in last full season under Solskjaer while senior United and ex-Telegraph reporter Mark Ogden said 'diminished status and expectancy is down to the owners' after the humiliating 0-5 loss to Liverpool last October. Failure to conclude the transfer business not just before the pre-season but even after English Premier League has started just highlights the constraints under which Erik ten Hag has to operate. This repeated failure of Glazers is no longer hidden from most of the media nor are they enamoured by lavish signings and wages on last choice players who end up at Old Trafford instead. For once Fans and media are in sync.

Before the match fans paid tribute to players who were part of England's Euro 2022 winning squad Ella Toone, Alessia Russo, Mary Earps and unveiled their latest signing Casemiro. The Brazilian despite his age might be one of the most influential signings United have ever made. He was the lynchpin of the most successful era in Real Madrid's recent history and allowed rest of the team to thrive and elongate their careers. Casemiro was man of the match when Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup and is match fit. Diego Simeone called him out “For the balance of the team, he is without a doubt their most important player.” while Zinedine Zidane brought him into the first team by noticing qualities similar to Claude Makelele with whom he played and won handsome laurels. Murtough and Arnold must be congratulated for having pulled out a coup of a transfer. Martinez and Casemiro fill the void of steely resolve and tenacity to the squad. Casemiro will wear shirt #18 of Paul Scholes.

United did not bow down to super agents in their quest to sign quality players. Ajax holding United to ransome over Anthony and 90 million is too much when their own fans claim 60 million is sufficient. This is especially true as club looks at back-up goal keeper, right back, striker and another midfielder. Erik ten Hag not only made the team run 13.8km which they lagged against Brentford team in their 0-4 humiliating loss but he himself ran with them to demonstrate he is with the team while helping them recover and not merely passing instructions. ETH exploited United's pace againts Liverpool to secure a memorable win and showed remarkable flexibility to change tactics. This is one of the key reasons why fans preferred him over Pochettino. Key now is to string up a winning run of games that includes Southampton and Leicester City.

Do or die against our biggest rivals as #GlazersOut gathers pace

New manager Erik ten Hag lost opening two games comprehensively against Brighton & Hove Albion (home) and Brentford (away) by scoreline 1-2 and 0-4. Team as a whole nor players individually did not demostrate any fight whatsoever. Ronaldo was introduced at half-time in the first match while three substitutions were made in the second where David de Gea was unusally responsible for two of the goals and apoligized for the same. Liverpool with two draws are 15th in the table meet United who are 19th on Monday in the biggest rivalry of English football. Last season United lost 0-9 on aggregate. Last time Manchester United lost their opening three matches it resulted in the change of manager before Christmas, first in 1972 with Frank O'Farrel and then in 1986 with Ron Atkinson!

Disastrous summer of rebuild without a head of recruitment caused this nightmare start with a new manager in tow. Richard Arnold and John Murtough concentrated all their energies on Frenkie de Jong who loves Barcelona not Manchester. Since the departure of Ander Herrera the club does not have a defensive midfielder of repute. Nemanja Matic was inefffective due to his age and Scott McTominay thrust into the cauldron like a youth parachuting over Normandy with only hope to his aid. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was backed to the hilt never filled this crucial gap having played with Roy Keane and Micheal Carrick. Erik ten Hag started both the games with McTominay and Fred in continuation of previous regime despite signing Lisandro Martinez who could have played in that role to limit the damage. Erik ten Hag has also retained Harry Maguire as captain, David de Gea as goal keeper and wants to retain Ronaldo who scored 24 goals for the club last season. If results do not improve either of these might have to give way.

Attention and blame was rightly pointed to the Florida based owners of the club, the Glazer family whose leveraged buyout has saddled a profitable club with debt that now stands at 590 million. They have thrown money since Sir Alex Ferguson left but without a clear vision. Mainstream media has finally got the guts to state these facts. But what took them so long? Was it their nationality or amount of money being thrown at the problem. Few of the grievances are listed below:

  • capped spending under Sir Alex Ferguson to 20 million even when rivals were spending more.
  • sold Ronaldo for world record 80 million but replaced them with Owen(free), Obertan, Valencia
  • have not upgraded the facility at Old Trafford since takeover
  • backed OGS, LVG without oversight even SAF esp by not having replaced Scholes and Giggs
  • backed the cult of Pogba over the manager Mourinho and destroyed the culture
  • united reserves relegated in 2018 under their watch
  • failed Moyes and Mourinho in the transfer window
  • commented that club can sustain without Champions' League football
  • earnings call always referenced social media frenzy the club generates but not sound football structures
  • only club owners in EPL to take dividends without putting their own money into the club
  • no fan interaction until the protest by fans over super league fiasco
  • backed the disastrous European Super League
  • not sacked Ed Woodward sooner. To be fair Richard Arnold from his interview appears more frank and sincere.

What was the initial reaction to the loss? United had apparently 75 million of Frenkie de Jong deal to spend and guess who they were approaching to sign - Marko Arnautovic and Adrien Rabiot! Arguement was that de Jong still signs before deadline day and additionals funds of 7 and 17 million coughed up to fill the gaps. Abject lack of big picture is brazenly evident in the decision making echelons of the club. Finally the #GlazersOut movement that got trending forced the club to make an approach for Brazilian midefielder Casemiro who like Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo has won five Champions' League titles at Real Madrid. Madrid were able to break perhaps their greatest midfield trio of Modric-Kroos-Casemiro due to marquee young talent they've signed up in Tchouameni and Camavinga. 60 million pounds with 10 million in add-ons for a 30 year old is still expensive considering that Varane was signed for 34 million pounds at 28 years of age last season.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe a boyhood United fan who had even made a late bid to buy Chelsea earlier has expressed a firm interest to buy the club from the Glazers. The NFL affiliated owners who are at the forefront of commercializing sport are not likely to sell their English Premier League assets easily though. United would definitely match and exceed the price Chelsea got i.e., 2.5 billion pounds. What can force the Glazers to sell? Sustained fan protests in the immediate phase or pressure from the independent regulator when its fully functionaing later on. Change of ownership will be bumpy but if they do not take money off the club and invest instead will win over the goodwill of fans slowly apart from having a clear football vision. 

Madrid trio Varane, Casemiro, Ronaldo with ten Hag's signings Martinez, Eriksen all starting will mean captain Harry Maguire may not be first choice starter. His positional sense is suspect and is not adept at playing the high line makes him suseptible to errors that lead to goals. Ronaldo had to be assuaged by the United hierarchy especially given that there was no Champions' League football this season from the opening of the transfer window by signings like Casemiro and still need to add a backup striker, right back, midfielder, leftwinger, goal keeper if possible. Bid for another of ten Hag's favourites Anthony was increased from 60 to 80 million which is huge in itself but to raise it further to 100 million would be insane. Instead would a young and hungry Declan Rice make more sense? Or combination of PSV winger Cody Gapko and Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkov-Savic who both offer physicality that is lacking in United presently. Without Casemiro, United will need to manage Liverpool for now at Old Trafford. #MUNLIV This one match can turn the season around and save Murtough not Erik ten Hag from the sack.

New era dawns at Old Trafford

Erik ten Hag ushers in new begining on the field while Richard Arnold the former head of commercial operations who took charge as CEO (from embattled Ed Woodward) in February does the same off field. Not just six players who came to the end of their contracts but also director of football negotiations, chief scout, global head of scouting, etc and appointed a deputy director of football in a club wide restructuring. In a positive development the new CEO has created an advisory group that includes Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and 'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson along with John Murthough. Club has even moved ahead with its plans for  'Fan Advisory Group' and 'Fan Share Scheme' that it initally announced in June, 2021 to win the fans back after the disastrous courting of European Super league. One crucial appointment missed was the head of recruitment which has severely impacted the most anticipated transfer window into a damp squib.

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's return the club chose to write-off last season by appointing an interim manager Ralf Rangnick to replace the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This is the main reason why fans have sympathy with the Portuguese star. To make up for that mess and loss of so many players on a free transfer, fans were anticipating both quality and quantity of incoming players. Erik ten Hag's voice on the field at Ajax the Argentine Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen on a free transfer and young left-back Tyrell Malacia are the only three new recruits. Club remain in pursuit of Frenkie de Jong presently of Barcelona after agreeing on a 75 million deal but the player is refusing to accept as he is owed deferred wages of around 17 million. A striker, right back and another midfielder are three area's club are yet to firm up an offer. Although striker appears to the most glaring gap due to unavailability of Mason Greenwood and Ronaldo's eagerness to play in Champions' League the lack of midfield options might deter the club from finishing off teams especially in away destinations. 

Erik ten Hag preparations for the new seaon began with a bang, a 4-0 win over Liverpool in Bangkok and followed by 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory, a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace and 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. However in the more serious matches United lost 0-1 to Atletico Madrid in Oslo and drew 1-1 with Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford last week. Aside from these results several changes to the playing style was observed. Erik ten Hag was repeatedly heard shouting at players if they did any mistakes, five a sides were punished physically for letting a goal, all players are now required to eat together, more sessions on one-touch passes under tight spaces, Sancho and Dalot appear to develop an understanding on the right wing, Zidane Iqbal, Charlie Savage, Ethan Laird, Alejandro Garnacho all played well on tour. ETH has added Kevin Keij from Ajax as performance analyst and Benni McCarthy only South African to have won Champions' League while at Porto under Jose Mourinho to the coaching staff. ETH has retained Harry Maquire as captain dispelling all rumours about squad unrest. Phil Jones is by the way still registered as a player with Manchester United!

With net spend of 70 million on Martinez and Malacia it is the lowest after appointing a new manager at United except that of David Moyes who was given just one signing of Fellaini. How have Arnold and Murtough prepared to handle the hicupps especially after transfer window closes? Ferguson used to famously say that its a crisis if Manchester United loses two matches in a row. How will online fan trolls, media scutiny be managed by the new management team? Murtough, Arnold and Ferguson might talk to media after 3rd, 6th and 9th defeat of the season while ETH only talks about winning the next match. 16 matches to be played before first winter World Cup in Qatar including tough October against City, Spurs, Chelsea and 22 matches after. Blooding of FA Youth Cup winning players might induce patience from fans longing for silverwere since Stockholm, 2017 against Ajax side led by Erik ten Hag!

First signs of issues ETH has to handle aside from coaching occured in friendly game against Rayo when Ronaldo and few others left the stadium after being substituted at half-time. ETH later spoke with Dutch media outlet Viaplay describing this behaviour as "unacceptable". Earlier Ronaldo who had skipped the Asia-Australia-Norway tour for family reasons had posted on social media that he would be playing against Rayo "Sunday, the king plays". ETH might be forced to play Ronaldo for the 1st game of the season against Brighton as in-form striker Anthony Martial suffered a recurring hamstring injury. Fans though have already earmarked Alejandro Garnacho as the breakout player of the season. But who would United replace Ronaldo with at such late notice? Rashford to score more than 20 goals, yes. First the team needs to ensure 0-4 humiliation in last game against Brighton will not be repeated.

Manchester United exceeded the target yet again for commercial operations by two-fold before the start of the new season thanks to Ronaldo wanting out and being involved in fund raising of Barcelona for interest in Frenkie de Jong. Guessed it right the social media hype. Are United being played by Barcelona to garner investors as they seek to come out of economic collapse which made them sell Messi last season? ETH has identified FDJ as his main summer target as per reports from many credible journalists who track Manchester United. Chelsea who offer Champions' League football enter the fray for both Ronaldo and FDJ. Implications if United were to lose out, disastrous to be in this position in the first place. Due to lack of recruitment specialist the last word is yet to be written on this one. Till then its going to McFred in midfield. Unpardonable!

Erik ten Hag recently said "to win in a certain way, being proactive, brave and with adventure. This is also what belongs to the culture of Man United." Aye. Aye.

New United kit is smashing by the way, credit where its due.

United's transfer woes and wins

Manchester United not only secured early appointment of Erik ten Hag on 22nd April before the final league match of Eredivisie on 15th May but the Dutchman started work immediately thereafter by watching the final league game of Reds against Crystal Palace on 22nd May. This was primarily due to the good officies of Edwin van der Sar and Ajax Amstredam. United secured the services of his assistant coach Mitchell van der Gaag to be his deputy at Old Trafford. It is quite natural for managers to have known and trusted backroom staff but also to get one player especially if he transmits the ideas and instructions of the manager on the pitch like Lisandro Martinez. United had done this in the past when Ron Atkinson signed Bryan Robson for a record British transfer fee to follow him from West Bromwich Albion.

Although officially this might be the business concluded with Ajax Amstredam but what transpired in the month of June during and after the Nations League was ungracious from United. It started with courting of 21 year old breakthrough centre-half for both Ajax and Dutch National team in Jurrien Timber. Ex-United manager and present manager of Dutch National Team Louis van Gaal termed his potential move as "not wise" arguing that he wants his players to get maximum game time ahead of first ever winter World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Timber decided against following his coach who progressed him from reserve team through to first team and helping him win the Marco van Basten Ajax Talent of the Year award for 2021-22 season.

While United were busy with Timber, Arsenal had an initial bid of 30 million Euro's submitted for his partner Lisandro Martinez in the heart of Ajax defense that had won two successive league titles. Martinez can play also play as defensive midfielder to keep in check the main opposing threat and win the ball back. He was Ajax's Player of the Year. United banged in to try to snatch what seemed like a bargain but Ajax stood firm. United then reportedly bid ~110 million for both Argentine Martinez and Brazilian winger Anthony together as per the Times. Ajax meanwhile as planned let Noussair Mazraoui (on free), Ryan Gravenberch (last year of contract) and Sebastien Haller (big fee of 31 million) leave. This raid from United would have ripped the team apart. Ajax indicated the price of the duo that United were not about to match thus Anthony was dropped.


Hounding did not stop there. Next was young striker Brian Brobbey an ex-Ajax academy graduate who had been transferred to RB Leipzig but brought back last January to play an important role with 7 goals. Usually employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements on joining a company and stick to Non-Compete clause while leaving, this clearly was about to be breached and also tarnish the great legacy of Erik ten Hag at Ajax. Another Ajax target Sasa Kalajdzic was scouted. Clearly neither Brobbey nor Kalajdzic has the record nor consistency to lead the 20 times English Premier League champion's attacking front line but are players still developing their potential.  

As none of the Ajax targets fructified United pounched in the deal of young left-back from Eredivisie Tyrell Malacia after Olympique Lyon had agreed a fee of 13 million with PSV Eindhoven. United did not seem to mind to pay 2 million extra to get their first summer signing and first signing of Erik ten Hag era. This is the second deal where United have muscled in and clearly exposing their lack of transfer specialist among their midst while hiring another corporate manager to be assistant to Director of Football John Murtough. This was highlighted by United's recent pursuit of Brentford's head of recruitment Lee Dykes in vain.

Malacia (15 million), Eriksen (free) and Martinez (55 million) done the next focus will be on protracted saga of Frenkie de Jong. United have as per reports increased their initial fee from 65 to 75 million to cover for the deffered wages owed by Barcelona to the player while the total fee remains 85 million. If concluded it will take the total spending to 155 million. If Frenkie de Jong deal does not get done than ETH can be confident that United are fully behind him to secure the type of players he demands. United might be forced to make the best out of Anthony Martial for one more season while promoting Alejandro Garnacho. Free agents Dries Mertens, Andrea Belotti or Jamie Vardy (last year of contract) can be last gasp attempt to cover for absence of Mason Greenwood. United have earned 10 million from the sale of Andreas Pereira to Fulham and departure of six players has drastically reduced the wage bill. United remain hopeful of further offloading Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles or Brandon Williams.

Erik ten Hag's debut match was a 4-0 thumping victory over our greatest rivals Liverpool in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia. Here is hoping Dutch Revolution mark-II gets the chance to be completed unlike mark-I under Louis van Gaal which was abruptly disbanded just as Rashford, Lingard, Martial after initial struggle settled nicely and were starting to turn things around. Trust the process.

United likely to promote Matej Kovar

With the likely impending move of Dean Henderson away from Old Trafford for next season, a position becomes vacant in the first team to back David de Gea and Tom Heaton. While omitting de Gea from the Spanish squad for the Nations League coach Luis Enrique reasoned "A goalkeeper should start the play and generate the first superiority, they must dominate the aerial play... I need a goalkeeper that transmits peace and calmness to me, that doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes, errors are part of football. What they generate I like a lot." Despite this snub, and due to his excellent form for Manchester United in 2021-22 campaign David de Gea won his fourth Player's Player of the Year award, he is likely to remain the first choice keeper of the new manager Erik ten Hag next season. While the purists would argue de Gea is not ETH type of keeper and Henderson should instead get the nod but the practicality is that Spaniard's astronomical wages are unaffordable by most other clubs. 

Ex-United youth goal keeper Tom Heaton returned to the club last summer and has over a 100 English Premier League appearances mainly for Burnley with 3 England caps, making him a competent backup to the Spaniard. The squad usually needs three goal keepers for the entire season. Instead of looking in the transfer market the club might promote from within. Clearly the choice has to be Matej Kovar as Nathan Bishop has not got sufficient exposure yet signed in January, 2021 from Southend. To address this lacuna the club had Bishop loaned out for one full season at Mansfield Town playing over 50 matches and gaining valuable match experience including the high-pressure play-offs eventually losing 0-3 to Port Vale.

Kovar meanwhile in his 4.5 years at United has more game time at both academy level and away at two clubs for two half-seasons. The 22-year old Czech goal keeper Kovar got his first senior call last September after keeping two clean sheets in U21 games having represented his country more than 20 times from U18's onwards. He was later in January loaned out to Burton Albion in EFL League One where in 6 matches he collected 2 'Man of the Match' awards with whoscored rating of 7.35. Last year he helped Manchester United gain promotion to top tier in Premier League 2. Club official biography highlights one of his key traits as saving penalties.

Loaned to Swindon Town who play in EFL League Two where he had 'baptism by fire' in Wiltshire conceding 41goals in 20 games before his deal was cut short in Jan 2021. Kovar signed a new contract this February that expires in June 2023 with option to extend for one more year before agreeing a loan move to the Brewers. Perhaps the short span of new contract suggests lack of confidence in the player but since then there has been progress based on 2 'MotM' awards and the video below. This is a welcome change at United where contract situation has positively impacted players performance. Hopefully the sign of things to come under Richard Arnold and John Murtough. In this recent match highights below for Burton Albion against Accrington Stanley one can clearly see his superb shot stopping skills too. Looks promising and ready for first team participation.


Kovar already has experience of being in the first team having been an unused substitute on the bench when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took a young side to play Astana away in the Europa League in Nov, 2019 as United had already qualified from the group. In the recent Euro U21 championship Group G match the top two sides Engalnd and Czech Republic played each other on 3rd June. Matej Kovar played full 90 minutes for Czech Republic while James Garner played for England who won the match 2-1. Draw for the U21 playoffs will be announced on 21st June. United signed another young Czech keeper Radek Vitek in summer of 2020.

Sir Alex Ferguson was on a look out for potential signings to replace Roy Keane when he went to watch Eric Djemba Djemba play for Nantes vs Rennes. Czech legendary keeper Petr Cech was only 18 or 19 playing for Rennes and Fersguson deemed him "too young". Based on Cech's sucees at an early age at Chelsea later prompted Ferguson to go for David de Gea at just 21.

Erik ten Hag presentation

Manchester United suffered their 12th loss in the last match of 2021-22 English Premier League season 0-1 to Crystal Palace and finished with lowest points tally in EPL history with just 58 points that is 35 points adrift of the champions City. Goal difference was a perfect naught with only 57 goals scored thanks mainly to Cristiano Ronaldo's 18 and conceded as high as 57 goals placing the club 12th in goals against. United lost 5 of their last 8 matches ceding 16 goals as Ralf Rangnick era quaked to a meltdown due to player's apathy. Sensing the urgency of the situation Erik ten Hag rightly decided to advance his joining date, got his two assistants on board - Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren, and even attended the Palace game in London. The Dutchman formally took charge the very next day on 23rd May after the final matchday and was presented to the media.

Erik ten Hag sounded confident and methodical in his explanation having won his 3rd Eredivisie title in 4 years with Ajax Amstredam. On next steps he said "What we are now doing is first constructing the staff, constructing the squad and constructing a good plan. First it's the pre-season plan that we are now working on." His remit from the club was clear "They have to set conditions and I have to work with my squad to achieve success." and demands from a big club like Manchester United "We want to win every game, so we go from game to game and then we will see." with some big name players "But it is always players who dictate the way of play. I have the ideal, I will line up my best team, and I will line up my players like that to get the best out of them."

He simply had to sound ebullient when asked if the dominance of Klopp-Guardiola can come to an end before they leave? "I think, yes." After the worst season in 30 years the fans hope the only way is up and he echoed that "Although it is a fantastic history, the reason is there is a high potential for the future. That's why I am here." Most stinging criticism came from the first Dutch manager of Manchester United Louis van Gaal when he branded it as "commercial club" and hoped ETH will not join them. ETH naturally rejected that "I draw my own line and I’m convinced that is not the case. I spoke to the directors about it and football is one, two, three these days. Every club these days is commercial. Every club needs it. To be successful you need to do what is necessary, but football is one, two three in this club.”

Most important information that came out was his sharp dismissal of Ralf Rangnick's consultancy role and he simply cut the answer short "That is on the club." and refused to elaborate any further. Days later first it was Rangnick after being unveiled as Austria manager announced that he will end his role at United. "We have come to the conclusion that it is better for me and the club to concentrate fully on the Austrian national team. I cancelled the consultancy contract." Rangnick didn't salvage the situation at United rather added fuel to the fire with claims of board not backing him to recruit a striker in January after Mason Greenwood was ruled out. Fans do thank him for exposing the club but that situation cannot continue for long without becoming untenable. 

ETH distanced himself from Rangnick's conclusion of the club needing upto 10 new players after 0-9 thrashing over two legs by their biggest domestic rivals Liverpool, by harking back to era under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer "I am still in the process of analysing...The season before, this squad was second in the league, so there is huge potential." This perhaps gives a clue that despite United losing 6 experienced players whose contract expire this summer and central midfield positions still vacant that there will not be any wholesale changes but rather a evolution in squad. This dampened the spirits of many leading broadsheets who gave a pessimistic reading of ETH presentation. The Telegraph opined "New Manchester United manager deserves time to prove he won't be remembered as Erik Ten Months" while The Times were more considerate "Straight-talking Erik ten Hag will take no nonsense at Manchester United."

ETH has started work 5-weeks early compared to David Moyes who consequently failed to add any significant players to the ageing squad that had won the league in previous season. ETH is bringing in a known hand in Steve McClaren while Moyes failed to persuade Rene Muelensteen to stay while disbanding rest of Sir Alex Ferguson's formidable backroom staff. Richard Arnold and John Murtough have a new setup taking shape after a string of departures in Jim Lawlor the chief scout, Marcel Bout head of global scouting, Matt Judge director of football negotiations, Hemen Tseayo chief strategy officer and Ed Woodward the chief executive. This can be a boon for ETH to push through his requests or a bane if the new hierarchy cannot deliver the transfers in time for the pre-season - a deadline crucial for the new manager. Manchester United appointed Andy O'Boyle as Deputy Director of Football reporting to John Murtough, and like Murtough himself O'Boyle joins from Premier League's head of elite performance. This puts an end to the rumours of links with Paul Mitchell who has signed on for another season at AS Monaco or Luis Campos who has joined Paris St Germain.

Best piece of advise came from the gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson "Well, I hope he does well because the club needs someone to get in control. I hope he does well, yeah." No Dutch manager has won the English Premier League title yet(Guus Hiddink, Louis van Gaal, Dick Advocaat, Martin Jol, Ruud Gulit, Ronald Koeman, Rene Muelensteen, Frank de Boer) and that's a stiff challenge for ETH in itself. David Moyes flew to Thailand for pre-season so will ETH in July but hope history does not repeat itself any further.

Paul Mitchell or relegation battle next season

With upto six players coming to end of their contracts at Manchester United who already have an unfilled vacancy in central midfield since departures of Ander Herrera and Marouanne Fellaini three years ago, the club has a monumental task ahead in the summer transfer window as Ralf Rangnick put it "for me, it is clear there will be six, seven, eight, maybe ten new players" following a 0-9 aggregate thrashing at the hands of their biggest rivals Liverpool. With the scale of the rebuild and a limited funding of about 150 million nett the task of getting the right players is difficult as it is; it is further compounded by the fact that United have a duboius record under Ed Woodward and Matt Judge to take forever to conclude negotiations while paying over the odds for the wrong players!

Richard Arnold will want to demonstrate how he tends to operate differently than his beleaguered predecessor and thus the appointment of Erik ten Hag, an upcoming manager who has steadily won laurels at Ajax. A new position was also created under John Murtough for Deputy Director of Football. Ralf Rangnick worked closely with Paul Mitchell at the Red Bull group and both were spotted at FA Youth Cup match in February. The Manchester born recruitment specialist would be an ideal candidate based on his brilliant eye for talent while at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Red Bull group and now AS Monaco. Mitchell was also synonymous with the rise of Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton and Tottenham but reportedly fell off with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and had to leave. With AS Monaco losing to Braga in round of 16 in Europa Cup and presently in 4th place in Ligue 1 six points off 2nd place amid managerial churn, time is perhaps right for Mitchell to move to new destination after a two year stint at the principality.

United have lost four straight away matches to Man City, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal. Last time this happened was in 1980-81 when United finished eight. United have lost 10 matches this season and conceded 51 goals already. Loss to Liverpool was the worst match in Premier League history. If it were not for Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea, United would be battling relegation. Board having sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and appointing an interim manager thus writing off the whole season, demolished the morale of the squad. With impending player exodus the chances of 'Too good to go down' might repeat in 2022-23 just a year before the golden jubilee of last relegation in 1973-74. Reports of conflict between British and Iberian/South American players must be firmly dealth with. Everton part of original top 4 clubs of league football in England are now facing relegation, United must wake-up now. Not only have City and Liverpool marched on while Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham are re-grouping but likes of Wolves, West Ham, Leicester, Brighton, Brentford, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace have sound structures to enable high performance. 

More than anything the character of the players will be paramount. Sir Alex Ferguson brought Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Steve Bruce and fixed the centre-back issue to build a firm foundation that got better after Gary Pallister added pace to handle counter-attacks. United must rally around a new captain in Bruno Fernandes ably guided by veterans Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea as the current skipper Harry Maguire has had a torrid time while being unispiring. Mason Greenwood is likely to miss another season, Edinson Cavani is leaving, Martial and Rashford are not number 9's which makes an emergency signing of a forward mandatory. If team takes time to adapt to different type of gameplay under Erik ten Hag, they must have an option to switch to more direct form in the last 20-30 minutes to salvage crucial points. United were relegated due to lack fit and proper strikers in 1973-74 campaign! Return of James Garner from an excellent spell at Forest has raised expectations. United cannot introduce young players from the team that has reached the FA Youth Cup final without proper protection from senior players like how 'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson switched to left wing to take care of opposing right-back who was giving young Ryan Giggs a tough time.

United certainly cannot spend 150 million on one player like Declan Rice or proven leaders like Harry Kane and Conor Coady as it seems very difficult to raise significant funds from selling players. United need two defensive midfielders, one centre-forward, one centre-back for a start. Hypothetically it is likely to be 40m for Ruben Neves, 50m for Yves Bissouma, 75m for Darwin Nunez, 35m for Jurrien Timber will top 200m. But an expert like Paul Mitchell can tweak this from his extensive contacts especially from Red Bull group players like Amadou Haidara(ligament injury), Konrad Laimer, Josko Gvardiol, Willi Orban, Marcel Halstenberg, Christopher Nkunku, Rasmus Kristensen et al and from his existing employers AS Monaco the likes of Aurelian Tchouameni, Benoit Badiashile, and others throughout Europe to transform the squad in couple of seasons itself. Getting Paul Mitchell will strengthen Ralf Rangnick's stature who is to become a consultant after this season and the board must not bring politics into play to handicap the club instead of being an enabler. Mitchell is likely to weigh up the takeover scenario at Chelsea who will play in the Champions' League next season unlike United before deciding.

United have been poor at letting players go and the plan of Ed Woodward to load non-starting players at high salary to extract good transfer fee has backfired spectacularly. Club will have to generate minimum of 50m by selling Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Anthoy Martial. Instead of Phil Jones club can groom Axle Tuanzebe or Teden Mengi. Luis Campos who is not associated with any club since leaving Lille in late 2020 is an formidable alternative to Paul Mitchell as are Brentford duo Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen. Campos performed the ultimate miracle by helping AS Monaco and Lille to win the French Ligue 1 as underdogs against oil rich Paris Saint-Germain. United were beaten by another United in Newcastle to the signing of technical director Dan Ashworth who has left Brighton and Hove Albion. What if United had football people at decision making levels to back Jose Moruinho over players with social media power, hired Luis Campos and signed one quality centre-back in summer of 2018. This summer is another such momentus occasion where fans want Manchester United to be run as a football club and not just a commercial brand.

Erik ten Hag it is!

David Ornstein of the Athletic broke the news of Manchester United having reached a verbal agreement with Erik ten Hag to become their next permanent manager. United had considered a four man shortlist for the job that included Mauricio Pochettino of PSG, Julien Lopetegui of Sevilla and Luis Enrique the Spanish national team coach. It was a dead heat between ten Hag and Pochettino after the other two ruled themselves out and in the online twitter poll that Gary Neville conducted the Dutchman was the overwhelming fans favourite by 82:18 margin while most of ex-United players backed the Argentine. Pochettino was strongly rumoured to take over from Louis van Gaal after meeting Sir Alex Ferguson in May, 2016 and has been linked with United job ever since. Erik ten Hag is seen as more steady with his stock on the rise while Pochettino had a difficult season at PSG with superstar players.

Erik ten Hag will be the second Dutch manager at United after Louis van Gaal, and

  • at 52 years of age would be around the same age as when Jose Mourinho took over in 2016
  • with a 4-years contract is the second lengthiest after Moyes' 6-years in post Ferguson era
  • he was assistant to former Sir Alex Ferguson assistant Steve McClaren at FC Twente in 2008 and McClaren could return to United if ten Hag wants
  • perhaps the first defender in his playing days to manage United since 1946 and played for FC Twente in 3 stints winning the Dutch Cup in 2001. All other previous United managers were either wing halfs or forwards as players.
  • None of the previous managers after Ferguson have even last 3 years. Gaffer used to say it takes 4 years to have all XI starting players of ones choice.

His best moment came in 2018-19 season in Champions' League when Ajax defeated Real Madrid who were attempting to win 4th straight trophy, by 4-1 and at Santiago Bernabeu with Dusan Tadic getting a perfect 10 score for his performance in that match! Ajax then beat Juventus in quater-finals but lost to Tottenham managed by Pochettino in semis in 96th minute. That season Ajax won Eredivisie for the first time in 5 years! United have not won the league since 2013. Both clubs have good academies and Erik ten Hag is known to bring players through. Despite losing most of his brightest young players he not only created a new winning team and won Eredivisie again in 2020-21 but changed the style, from false 9 and inverted wingers to out-an-out number 9 with wingers. In this seasons Champions' League Ajax won all 6 of their group stage matches against Borussia Dotmund, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas but lost in the knock-out phase to Benfica with Darwin Nunez, a target for United to replace Edinson Cavani scoring the winner. In the knock-out phases ten Hag has had more favourable results away than at home at the Amstredam Arena.

At United the Glazers love big name players like Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo who generate lot of social media buzz. Hope Joel Glazer, Richard Arnold and John Murtough understand that they would need to stand by their manager in any event of a contest with those big name players. If they repeat the stance they took against Jose Mourinho they will help repeat the chaos of last 9 years not rectify it. Having understood the setup first-hand Ralf Rangnick can play a crucial role to ease Erik ten Hag who has thrived under director of football at Ajax but the structure at United is still vague with most decisions deferred to Glazers. Stadium re-development plans having been initiated the board must ensure that does not drain the resources for investment in the first team. Board must act quickly to get the transfers done early in order for Erik ten Hag to have a full pre-season(Thailand and Australia) to mould the squad that failed previously to adapt to Rangnick's 4-2-2-2 itself. He often stresses on a particular trait "creating space for others with off-the ball runs" which United players can only embrace in training. Incidentally lack of standard 'training'  was one of the major issues pointed out by players about the regime of Solskjaer and Rangnick, with ten Hag that will be firmly resolved.

After an underwhelming season a host of United players are nearing their end of contracts(6) which will clear the squad for a rebuild - exit of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Lee Grant should free up the wage bill enomously. Under utilized players(3) like Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and decide the futures of players returning from loan(7) like Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Andeas Pereira, Tahith Chong, Amad, Facundo Pellistri. Thats easily about 12 players as Amad and Pellistri are highly rated youngsters! One player most thrilled by this appointment will be Donny van de Beek. Crucial will be to bring in 4 to 5 young and hungry players to spruce up the squad and not repeat the mistake made under Moyes where only Fellaini and Mata were brought in. Availability of Anthony Elanga and James Garner will be of tremendous help. While the biggest question is not the future of Cristiano Ronaldo but of Mason Greenwood and especially if he cannot play regularly next season United will have to prioritize the signing of a forward like Darwin Nunez urgently.

Based on available resource Erik ten Hag has modified the team's style of play at Ajax. At United will Harry Maguire be able to play a high defensive line? Will the handicap of McTominay and Fred be finally over? Luke Shaw's defensive liability be tolerated? Over reliance on Bruno Fernandes be reduced? Struggling Marcus Rashford regain his form? Chose between David de Gea or Dean Henderson? Problems of plenty but lacking the ability to control the game from midfield. A single high profile signing of Declan Rice or combination of Reuben Neves, Aurelien Tchouameni, Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma or Kalvin Phillips. On a positive note Erik tan Hag can in the future look to pick from players who have reached the FA Youth Cup finals in Alejandro Garnacho, Charlie McNeil, Kobbie Mainoo, Daniel Gore, Marc Juardo, Rhys Bennett et al, an option and quality in such numbers unavailable to most of his predecessors as United's previous final was in 2011.

United move from having the guru of Jurgen Klopp in Ralf Rangnick as interim manager to former assistant to Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich where he trained the players to be ready for the first team while playing in the same style. Tottenham's ascent to 4th spot with the best manager available then in Antonio Conte proves yet again that it is the singlemost important appointment at a football club. Guardiola, Klopp, Tuchel and Conte all but fortifying the top 4 the best that can be expected of ten Hag is 5th place finish next season but importantly a clear style of play with Manchester United DNA.

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