Erik ten Hag has seven days to prove Pep Guardiola was right about him at Manchester United


Pep Guardiola described Erik ten Hag as a ‘top-class manager’ and said that his teams ‘are a joy to watch’ when he was appointed at Manchester United from Ajax.

Neither statement is true this season. United have systematic problems and were exposed against Fulham on Saturday afternoon, in a lacklustre performance at Old Trafford.

Fulham were without their two best players, Joao Palhinha and Willian, and they were the better team from the first whistle. United lacked intensity, they were cut open too easily and you could have parked a bus in the vacant space that was left in the centre of the pitch.

Unfortunately, those problems aren’t new for United and Ten Hag must take responsibility for the team being poorly coached more than 18 months into his tenure.

There have been accusations that United do not have a distinguishable style of play and Ten Hag said in October he could not play like his former Ajax side, who went on a memorable run in the 2018/19 Champions League, because he didn’t have the personnel for that style.

Ten Hag has spent over £400million on players in two summer windows since he was appointed from Ajax and he’s received more backing than other United managers in the last 10 years.

The squad has been moulded in his vision and his excuse didn’t wash. He has failed to implement a clear style of play and that’s not good enough when you manage an elite club.

Last season’s success was built on an outstanding defensive foundation and Marcus Rashford scoring for fun, but his goals have dried up and the backline has become porous.

United have conceded 435 shots in the Premier League this season and only Sheffield United, who sit at the bottom of the league table, have conceded more.

Ten Hag’s tactics are not working and many have questioned what the United boss is trying to achieve, as the team is unconvincing even when they win matches.

Remarkably, 12 of the 14 league wins this season have been by a single-goal margin and although the last few weeks were overwhelmingly positive because wins were secured, there were still aspects of the performances – particularly the lack of control – that were concerning.

That’s why last weekend’s defeat to Fulham didn’t come as a surprise, especially after it was confirmed Rasmus Hojlund had been ruled out for two to three weeks with an injury.

However, the defeat did come as a jolt to the system after a string of wins and it brought United back down to earth ahead of a huge seven days for Ten Hag’s future.

United have Nottingham Forest in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday night and that competition is their only remaining hope of winning a trophy this season.

A visit to the Etihad to take on Manchester City comes next, so United could potentially be out of the FA Cup and have been beaten in the Manchester derby by Sunday night.

Of course, they could also be in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and have won against City, but a significant improvement will be required on the lifeless Fulham display.

Guardiola believes Ten Hag is a ‘top-class manager’ and now is the time to show it. The next seven days could decide whether he has a future at United.




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