‘There is a new Sheriff in town’ and his name is Erik Ten Hag! This season will see Manchester United finally have a coach at the peak of his powers. The previous appointments like Jose Mourinho & Louis van Gaal were all past their primes while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and David Moyes were all a weird fit for the 20-time English champions.
Man United played their first preseason game against Liverpool in Bangkok and it could not have gone any better with Red Devils thumping the current FA Cup and League Cup holders to a 4-0 rout. This gave a glimmer of new hope to Red Devils faithful who have witnessed misery since the time Sir Alex Ferguson left Man United.
This current squad is still undergoing changes with new arrivals and more departures expected. Lisandro Martinez is all set to join Manchester United after both sets of clubs have agreed on a €50m fee while Frenkie de Jong is expected to join after the club agreed to a package worth €85m with cash-strapped FC Barcelona.
What are the changes that Erik has made in such a short amount of time?
Multiple reports have come out and said that intensive training on the ground and players have already started to receive one-to-one detailed tactical instruction from the manager. While Rangnick criticized the players at the club for not receiving his tactics positively, the same cannot be said of Ten Hag. The players have responded to the manager in a positive manner and are ready to work with him on a day-to-day basis.
In the game against Liverpool which to be fair very small sample size, fans saw their pressing with a proper approach. In the days of Rangnick, the side did try to press but it was never coherent. Here from the forwards to the midfielders, the Red Devils went after the Liverpool side and repeatedly forced them into mistakes from which they capitalized. One good example is the one below:
The press 👊
The finish ⚡️
Love this from you, @AnthonyMartial 😎#MUFC || #MUTOUR22
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 12, 2022
It is remarkable that a side with the stature of Manchester United has just now started to adapt the new and modern ideas on football whereas crosstown rivals Manchester City and Liverpool are light years ahead of them.
Playing with a high line also means that teams can expose you on various occasions by making runs behind your backline. We saw two instances where The Reds managed to get behind Man United’s line of defence. Ten Hag can counter this problem by making United a more ball-dominant side which limits the danger of being caught out due to fast breaks. Fans will have to be patient if Ten Hag was to implement his approach and also be ready to forgive the mistakes as this is just the beginning of the Dutch coach’s tenure.
FLUID FRONT THREE
In the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Man United fielded a front three of Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. They brought plenty of pace, trickery and goals but can they sustain this for the entire season is altogether a different question. Rashford looked fresh and sharp after injury issues crippled his last season while Martial who was allowed to leave on a short loan to Sevilla came back like a man who wants to prove his doubters wrong.
Last season’s big money signing Jadon Sancho was lively throughout the time he spent on the field scoring the opening goal and setting up his teammates with various chances. All of the three combined very well and exchanged positions to various degrees of effectiveness.
AN EERIE OF EXCITEMENT
Out of the top six if any set of fans have dreaded to watch their teams it would be Manchester United. Man City and Liverpool continued their dominance domestically and on the European stages, Arsenal looked really exciting under Arteta, Spurs look like serious challengers under Conte and Tuchel continued to win two trophies and reach two more domestic finals last season & and then there was Man United.
Neither the team was playing any exciting football nor were they able to win any silverware. It felt like the same mistakes and rumblings kept on happening in a cycle. There were hardly any positives about last season.
But here they were looking like a team who were unshackled and played with good confidence. Players were taking risks, midfielders worked hard on and off the ball and wing-backs bombed up and down wings. Under Ten Hag reign, it is expected that The Red Devils will play out from the back and that is much to criticize the coach has decided to stick with Harry Maguire and Martinez’s arrival will surely help facilitate that.
In the end, we have to take these observations lightly considering this is just a pre-season friendly. This was not the first team Liverpool played although, after halftime, Klopp did bring on the veterans. And Ten Hag seems to be well aware of that as well saying, “It will take a lot of time. I have seen a lot of mistakes. Liverpool played three teams, they were not at their strongest. We will not overestimate this result.”
It is the correct way to move forward. For progress to happen at this club there will be some hard facts that Red Devils may have to accept first and probably then we could see a new Manchester United era dawn upon.