Despite a devastating loss in London, there is a new era on the horizon in Manchester. Eric ten Hag has weathered a brutal opening to the season and come out stronger. For the first time in years, optimism is returning to the theatre of dreams.
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United have made the coaching carousel their home. However, something has felt different under ten Hag.
In the span of a few months, ten Hag was able to rebound by building a fearsome backline. At the same time, he has made some tough choices to build a new culture in Manchester. These decisions have gone ahead and created an era of good vibes that the club has sorely missed.
There are clearly the hallmarks of an exciting project under ten Hag. If they hold onto their Champions League spot, they will have to make some upgrades. The excellent shift in fortunes should force the club to act urgently and support ten Hag.
For the first time in close to a decade, there is a positive future in sight for United. Betting on ten Hag may just have been what the club needed.
After hitching their wagon to every type of manager, United have found something in ten Hag. A master of building projects, the Dutchman is also a defensive mastermind.
To say United had a rough start would be a gross understatement. Embarrassment after embarrassment, as the club fell apart. For many, it would have been easy to write off United once more.
Rather than using this start as an excuse, ten Hag completely changed the defensive scheming. Booting Harry Maguire for Lisandro Martinez has been one of the best moves of the season. Martinez and Varane complement each other perfectly, forming a wall at the back.
Casemiro looks just as good as his Madrid days and ten Hag has utilized him as a midfield wrecker. Eriksen and the fullbacks aren’t zeroes defensively which has made the side so tough to break down. Even de Gea, outside the occasional mistake, has been decent.
The Dutchman’s squad management has also been such a nice break. When Ronaldo threw his fit, ten Hag stood his ground and protected his squad. It’s not hard to see a correlation between Ronaldo’s exit and United’s resurgence.
No matter the context, the correct decision is made. Jadon Sancho isn’t showing his worth, Antony will bring better balance to the side. Every decision ten Hag makes is for the culture.
Years of the coaching carousel have ended in the appointment of ten Hag. While it’s still early, and still United, it’s impossible to not give ten Hag his flowers.
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, ten Hag’s work is yet to be finished. If United’s board is truly invested in this project, they must give him the reins in the offseason.
Despite being top 10 in goals scored, there is a clear positional weakness for United. A true striker is desperately needed for this side. To truly lift this side in ten Hag’s vision, the club needs a consistent 15-20 goals a season striker.
This side has the creativity in Bruno, Eriksen and the like, all they’re missing is someone to put it in the back of the net. While a younger player, like Vlahovic, is appealing, a veteran goal getter would help bring much needed leadership to the side. Sébastian Haller would be a dream signing given his time under ten Hag.
There are other positions that may need upgrades, especially in the backline. An upgrade over Eriksen may also be useful.
Luke Shaw has been admirable this season and so has Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but neither should be seen as foundational to this team. Keeping one of them may be fine, but given the quality of other Prem fullbacks, it’s time for an upgrade. Giovanni Di Lorenzo would bring needed grit to this side and he’s still in his prime.
Coming back from what he did should endear Eriksen to the hearts of fans all over and he still has time to win so much more as a player. As he ages, Eriksen may be more suited to being the first man off the bench rather than a starter. This may allow ten Hag to play a true 8 alongside Casemiro and balance the midfield even more.
United is on the cusp of a new era, so it’s time for the board to match the manager’s desire. There has to be another smart window where moves are made to balance the squad even more.
Even towards the end of last season, the future seemed so bleak for United. The club was stuck in this endless rebuild where they pandered constantly to nostalgic fans. In one move, they have brought optimism back to the side, but they must give ten Hag full control.
Featured image: AP