The Dutch coach, Erik ten Hag, has been facing challenges at the helm of Manchester United.
Here, we will analyze how he has set up the team, as well as his track record since joining the English giant.
Erik ten Hag’s numbers at the helm of Manchester United
After extraordinary years leading Ajax, Erik ten Hag decided to take on a highly challenging commitment: managing one of the most popular and successful teams on the planet, Manchester United.
We know that being a coach at this specific club is no easy task. The ghost of one of the greatest managers in history, Sir Alex Ferguson, still looms over Old Trafford.
A team that was a favorite in every competition it entered is now undergoing an eternal rebuilding process since 2013.
It is true that for a brief period, under the guidance of another great coach, José Mourinho, Manchester United found its way again, winning the Europa League, the English League Cup, and the English Super Cup in the 2016/17 season.
However, we know that this is not enough for a team of United’s stature, especially given the investments made in player acquisitions that didn’t live up to expectations.
Since his arrival in August 2022, Erik ten Hag has impressive statistics at the club, speaking for themselves. In 79 matches, he achieved 50 victories, suffered 21 defeats, and only had 8 draws.
It’s noteworthy that the number of draws is remarkably low, indicating the coach’s determination to win games. The outcome can be either positive or negative.
He has a significantly positive goal difference, with the team scoring 139 goals and conceding 99.
Regarding performance, let’s start with the positive side.
Ten Hag arrived in 2022 with the challenging task of taking over United. There were high expectations as he had led the young Ajax team to the Champions League semifinals, being eliminated in the last moments of the game with Lucas Moura’s hat-trick.
In addition to the impressive campaign and titles in the Netherlands, the coach became known for nurturing many players into the global scene, aided by one of the most traditional youth academies, Ajax.
Therefore, it was expected that this work with young talent would also reflect at Manchester United.
The English Premier League campaign by United was one of the best in recent years. The team finished in third place, something that hadn’t happened in a while.
They displayed consistent football, especially after the arrival of Casemiro, who stabilized the Red Devils’ midfield, along with the morale boost of having a five-time Champions League winner in the squad.
Another significant issue that ten Hag had to handle was Cristiano Ronaldo.
Understanding that the player wasn’t performing as before, considering the challenges posed by advancing age, the Dutch coach chose to bench him on several occasions.
The undeniable talent and dedication of Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as his historical role in football, especially at Manchester United, are unquestionable. However, when a player sees himself as bigger than the club, conflicts with the institution and the coach arise. That’s what happened.
In October 2022, in a match against Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo refused to enter the field and left the bench before the end of the game.
When questioned, the coach stated that he would have a conversation with the player and apply disciplinary measures.
Coincidence or not, less than a month later, Cristiano Ronaldo terminated his contract and headed to Saudi Arabia.
Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images
Despite this storm, the team performed exceptionally well.
They won the English League Cup, beating Newcastle 2-0 in the final; reached the FA Cup final, losing 2-1 to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and secured third place in the Premier League.
However, the start of this season is proving challenging for the Red Devils.
They currently occupy the 8th position in the English Premier League and were eliminated early from the English League Cup, losing 3-0 to Newcastle.
The most precarious situation is in the Champions League. In Group A, which could be considered relatively easy, consisting of Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Galatasaray, and Copenhagen, the Red Devils languish in the last position with only 3 points.
In other words, if things continue this way, United won’t participate in any European competition this season, as the top two in the group advance to the knockout stages, and the third-placed team goes to the Europa League.
The team has already lost to all the group opponents, with the latest defeat being 4-3 against Copenhagen in Denmark.
What could be the reason for this performance?
Reasons for the low performance this season
Based on assumptions, we can try to find some justifications for Manchester United’s below-par start to the season.
While the team ended the previous year on a high with great expectations from the fans, these expectations are diminishing with each passing game.
It wasn’t due to a lack of investment, as Manchester United spent €204.4 million. An astronomical sum even by Premier League standards.
Let’s look at the names:
- Rasmus Højlund – €75 million
- Mason Mount – €64.2 million
- André Onana – €50.2 million
- Sofyan Amrabat – €10 million (on loan)
With a budget this size, did the United board choose the right players to invest in?
We all know that the European market is extremely inflated, especially when it comes to players in the top 5 leagues on the continent.
Take Rasmus Højlund, for example. The Danish player arrived from Atalanta for an exorbitant amount. Is this his actual value as a player on the field? Does he justify the €75 million through assists, goals, beautiful plays, and brand exposure? Not yet.
Photo: Getty Images
Last season, he scored 10 goals for Atalanta in 32 games. Even though he is a young player, this is considered a low number, especially since he was a starter in the vast majority of matches.
Compared to Marcos Leonardo, Endrick, and Vitor Roque, who play in the Brazilian league, his performance seems even worse, as the trio has already scored 21, 11, and 20 goals, respectively. The season hasn’t even ended yet.
Although they showed much better performances than Højlund, Endrick and Vitor Roque were sold for a lower value. Marcos Leonardo is expected to be sold at the end of the year for a much lower amount.
Another name is Mason Mount. The player was already struggling at Chelsea, but even so, astronomical amounts were spent to sign the midfielder.
Photo: Reprodução site Manchester United
Onana, who had an exceptional season with Inter Milan, has not been able to replicate his good performances. The goalkeeper has made mistakes in several matches, negatively affecting United’s results.
Furthermore, the sum of €50.2 million is out of touch with reality, especially when their previous goalkeeper was De Gea, a renowned player who didn’t even have his contract renewed after ten years with the club.
Photo: James Gill/Getty Images
In addition to the new signings having little or no impact, existing players in the club haven’t developed.
This is the case with Anthony and Sancho. Two players with a very promising future, but who struggle with off-field issues.
Given this, ten Hag must find urgent solutions. Football is unfair, and even though he had an above-expected season last year, an early elimination from the Champions League, combined with a mid-table position in the Premier League, could cost him his job.
Do you believe that United and ten Hag can turn things around this season?
Written by Vitor F L Miller.