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Can Manchester United Achieve Anything Close To Their Glory Days Under Ten Hag’s Management?

by Ozymandias
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It’s official! Now that the 2023/24 Premier League season is over, Ten Hag’s Manchester United side actually finished the season (60 points) with fewer points than the 2013/14 infamous season under David Moyes (64 points).

To add insult to injury, the Red Devils are not going to play in Europe this season. Some Manchester United fans are actually with this outcome as they feel playing in the Conference League is beneath their prestigious club but that’s beside the point.

This was a season of setting unwanted records for Ten Hag’s side.

As mentioned earlier, Manchester United this season had fewer points than the much dreaded David Moyes reign as coach. The last time the Red Devils had a points tally this low was before the great Sir Alex Ferguson’s time. They finished in eighth position and their previous worst finish in the current Premier League era was seventh. Plus, this is also the first time during the current Premier League era that Manchester United will finish a season with a negative goal difference (-3). Their previous worst goal difference was zero.

The only silver lining for the 20-time Premier League winners this season is the fact that they actually made it to the final of the FA Cup where they will face their neighbors Manchester City. However, you will be a very brave person to expect United to defeat City considering the form both clubs are currently on and the fact that Pep Guardiola’s side has already defeated United twice already this season.

But at least, the silver medal should count as something (or maybe not).

What surprises many people, both Manchester United fans and football enthusiasts alike, is the fact that despite the major shortcomings this season, Ten Hag appears to have the backing of the club’s management.  The Red Devils have really fallen short of the glory days of Fergie. Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of United for 26 seasons and during his tenure, the club was Premier League champions an astonishing 13 times!

It’s now been 11 years since the Scotsman has retired and the Red Devils have not remotely come close to becoming Champions again since his departure. Meanwhile their neighbours Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, have been champions 7 times since Ferguson’s retirement.

Depending on the context of how you analyze the situation, it is hard to see the reason for Manchester United’s management’s apparent decision to get behind Ten Hag. For instance, the former Ajax boss has spent over €400 million while at Manchester United and this includes big-money signings like Antony for €100 million and Rasmus Hojlund for €64 million. 

Sadly, literarily none of these players have lived up to expectations. Maybe except for Lisandro Martinez but a series of long-term injuries have rendered him unavailable to play. 

Then there is the issue of Ten Hag having tensions with players like Alejandro Garnacho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and most famously, Jadon Sancho. The Garnacho situation was resolved amicably, however, the same can’t be said for Sancho and Ronaldo. After a series of back and forth, both players eventually left the Theatre of Dreams for Germany and Saudi Arabia respectively.

In both cases, the Dutchman was clearly the loser as Ronaldo is currently on an insane scoring streak with his Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr FC while Sancho is getting ready to play in this season’s Champions League final for Borussia Dortmund. One major irony here is United failed to qualify for the knockout stage in this year’s tournament as they finished last in their group. They also won’t be participating in the tournament next season, or any European tournament for that matter.

It is really hard to justify why Ten Hag should remain coach of the Red Devils both from a long-term and short-term perspective.  This season, they had their worst-ever finish in the current Premier League era, plus, some additional unwanted records. Also with the current players at their disposal, it is hard to imagine that Manchester United will become a formidable force in the foreseeable future.

Maybe Ten Hag accrued a lot of goodwill from the Manchester United board and supporters alike when he won the Carabao Cup in his first season in charge and that’s why some of them are willing to overlook his shortcomings and support his project.

Then again, there are many things about the club that we are not aware of and only the management is privy to. As such, maybe we should not be so judgemental of Ten Hag.

Inconsistencies and setbacks – these have been two major themes during the former Ajax boss’ tenure so far. Records have been broken, but not the kind United fans yearn for. Marquee signings have been made who did not live up to expectations. Then there is the tension between him and numerous players and ex-players of the club.

All things considered, greatness, after all, isn’t built overnight. Ferguson himself endured early struggles before forging a dynasty. Ten Hag’s project is far from complete. With time, shrewd investment in the right personnel, and the fostering of a more positive team environment, Manchester United might not recapture the past, but they have the opportunity to carve their own identity under Ten Hag. 

The road to glory may be long and winding, but the unwavering support of the fans, coupled with a renewed sense of purpose, could be the spark that ignites a new era of success at Old Trafford.

This article was updated 1 month ago

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