He came to Manchester as someone who would bring back a winning atmosphere to a declining and struggling Manchester United. Erik ten Hag was to resurrect the famous brand and bring back the trophies the club had been waiting for for years. After his first year in the job, it could be argued that he is succeeding in bringing the joy of football back to the fans at Old Trafford. But there are a few “buts”.
Exactly a year has passed since Manchester United unveiled a coach who would end the not-so-successful years and build on the era of the famous manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The Hag came to England with a sterling reputation.
In 2019, his Ajax wowed the world when they strode all the way to the Champions League semi-finals, where they only narrowly lost to the late beaten finalists Tottenham.
The Hag made the world famous with players such as De Jong, De Ligt, Ziyech and van de Beek for example, all of whom later moved on to addresses such as FC Barcelona, Juventus Turin, Chelsea and Manchester United.
On their journey to the semi-finals, Ajax brushed aside Real Madrid, the most successful team in the millionaire competition, and took on Juventus in the quarter-finals. At the same time, Hague’s charges entertained the football world with beautiful and attacking football.
It is not so surprising that the Dutch coach came to Manchester with great expectations. During the first transfer period, the Hag brought in Christian Eriksen and his former Ajax charge Lisandro Martinez among the more significant reinforcements. Despite these reinforcements, however, ten Hag’s engagement began like something out of a horror movie.
In the first game of the season on home soil his team lost to Brighton 1: 2, in the second even suffered a shameful debacle 0: 4 at Brentford.
After these slaps, the Manchester United coach put pressure on the club’s management and forced two more reinforcements. Experienced midfielder Casemiro came from Real Madrid for 70 million euros, and skilful Brazilian Antony came from Ajax for 100 million.
Conflict with Ronaldo
In the season, however, ten Hag had to deal with one more unpleasant issue. Just before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, the team’s biggest star Cristiano Ronaldo gave an interview to presenter Piers Morgan.
In it, the Portuguese legend criticised the conditions at Manchester United, his former teammates and ten Hag himself. And the club has reacted strongly. It immediately terminated the Portuguese’s contract and ended his cooperation. After the World Cup, where his team was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Morocco, Ronaldo moved to the Saudi Arabian league to Al-Nassr.
After Ronaldo’s departure, English striker Marcus Rashford became the main attacking threat in the red part of Manchester. The latter is having one of the best seasons of his career under ten Hague. He has scored 15 goals and assisted 4 goals in the current Premier League season so far. Only Mohamed Salah, Ivan Toney, Harry Kane and the unbeatable Erling Haaland have scored more goals this season.
The wait for the trophy is finally over
United also managed to end a six-year wait for a trophy when they advanced to the Carabao Cup final, beating Newcastle United 2-0. This was the last time Jose Mourinho did what The Hag did before him. He won the trophy with the Red Devils.
However, in the current season, the Hag is not only collecting success. The aforementioned false start was far from the only blemish on Ten Hag’s first season. United suffered a disgraceful 0:7 debacle in a match against their old rivals Liverpool at Anfield.
Mourinho, on the other hand, will not be followed by ten Hag in the European Cup. The Portuguese strategist boasted a Europa League triumph in his first season. It was ten Hag’s charges who crashed out of the competition in the quarter-finals, when they failed to keep up with Spanish Sevilla, one of the Red Devils’ least favourite opponents, with a 5: 2 aggregate score.
Until the end of the season, ten Hag has two important tasks. The first is to keep the team in the top four, which guarantees participation in the Champions League. The second will then be to win the FA Cup final against city rivals Manchester City and add a second trophy to the collection this season.
The Premier League finish in particular will then be crucial in assessing whether or not that Hag’s first season was a success.
Sources: Manchester United, Premier League
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