Man United badly need Erik ten Hag to be the one who finally succeeds where many before him failed

Erik ten Hag is the final roll of the dice for Manchester United and their owners, the Glazer family. Next May it will be 10 years since the club last won the Premier League title and if Ten Hag becomes the fifth permanent manager to fail to recreate the glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson, United and the Glazers will have nothing more to do turning.

United and the Glazers are banking on Ten Hag being the right man and with their Premier League season set to start with a home game against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, we’ll soon find out if he’s the real deal or just another is an overrated appointment that will suffer the same unfortunate fate as its predecessors.

Sources have told ESPN that after interviewing both Ajax manager Ten Hag and then-Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino earlier this year as the final two contenders for the job, Ten Hag felt that Ten Hag’s “hype around him” and sense of being a man on the rise convinced the Glazers to appoint the 52-year-old as manager.

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And having made their choice, the Glazers and chief executive Richard Arnold have given Ten Hag the green light to rip it up and start afresh as United try again to restart the Old Trafford machine.

He was allowed to pursue his transfer goals ahead of players higher on the club’s list of potential signings – Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia and Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez were on United’s radar but no targets until Ten Hag arrived – and the new boss quickly won his battle to welcome Ferguson’s former assistant and later England manager Steve McClaren into his backroom, despite opposition from some of the club’s senior figures.

Ten Hag has also been supported in his determination to instill more discipline in the squad and his candid comments on Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘unacceptable’ decision to leave Old Trafford before the end of last Sunday’s friendly against Rayo Vallecano point to the Dutchman being of its bosses empowered to deal harshly with any player who fails to meet his exacting standards.

But we’ve seen and heard all of that before at United in the post-Ferguson era. Each new manager has been presented as a savior, only to find himself burned out from the experience of managing the club.

United have tried every possible route back to the top since Ferguson stepped down after his 13th and the club’s 20th title at the end of the 2012/13 season, but a combination of poor decisions, dismal recruitment and a lack of experience and vision in the boardroom has conspired to keep them in the situation they are in now and hope desperately that Ten Hag really is the right date.

David Moyes, Ferguson’s replacement, was the continuity contender – the Scot, cut from the same cloth as Ferguson, with a reputation for team building at Everton. But Moyes, nicknamed the ‘Chosen One’, had never won a major trophy or worked for a club of United’s stature and he soon looked more like the Frozen One before being sacked after less than a season, with the team dated Champion to finish seventh.

Louis van Gaal was hired in 2014, despite not having worked in club management since being sacked by Bayern Munich in 2011, and he has been billed as the man who brings authority, leadership and a winning mentality to the side. But United, fueled by Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward, gave Van Gaal a free hand in the transfer market and a series of disastrous signings including Bastian Schweinsteiger, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay defined his tenure, which ended after two years with players and fans complaining complained about his boring and outdated football.

Serial winner Jose Mourinho was to be the catalyst for United’s rebirth in 2016, but after being sacked from his previous jobs by Chelsea and Real Madrid, he lacked the charisma and aura of his earlier career, and after earning huge sums for The likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, as well as Alexis Sanchez’s free transfer flop, left him in December 2018 after the squad lost all faith in the former ‘Special One’.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, described to ESPN by a United source as Mourinho’s “antidote”, was underqualified as a manager having previously been sacked by Cardiff City after being relegated from the Premier League, but his status as a United legend immediately gained respect from the fans and his nice manner quickly won over the players.

But Solskjaer was overwhelmed, lacking the tactical acumen or personality to take United back to the top and was sacked last November after a string of humiliating results including a 5-0 home loss to Liverpool.

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The former Manchester United star is hoping his former team-mate for club and country stays at Old Trafford after the Red Devils’ promising summer.

Moyes, Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer – they all had question marks over them when they were hired but United went ahead and appointed them anyway.

Ten Hag also has questions to answer. Is he ready for the pressure that comes with managing the biggest club in the world’s highest profile league? Can success with Ajax in the Eredivisie convince his current squad that he has the tactical qualities that will allow the team and players to improve enough to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool?

The first signs in the pre-season were promising. Ten Hag seems to have asserted his authority quickly, winning over any doubters thanks to the clarity of his demands on the squad and, most importantly, he has the supporters on his side. But pre-season has always been an unreliable guide to what lies ahead. Van Gaal won all five of his first preseason games but then lost the Premier League opener at home to Swansea and struggled to regain momentum.

Ten Hag cannot afford a similar false start this weekend. Mood and momentum are so important in a game dominated by social media reactions and a loss will open the door to immediate criticism and troubleshooting. But that’s the price that comes with managing Manchester United. It can be a relentless job, but Ferguson has shown the rewards can be immense.

Ten Hag simply needs to be everything Moyes, Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer should have been but weren’t – a manager capable of dominating a dressing room and the boardroom. But above all, he must show that he is a winner.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/manchester-united-engman_utd/story/4713338/man-united-badly-need-erik-ten-hag-to-be-the-one-who-finally-succeeds-where-many-before-him-failed Man United badly need Erik ten Hag to be the one who finally succeeds where many before him failed

Emma Bowman

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