Former Ajax manager Erik Ten Hag was frequently praised during his first season as manager of Manchester United. After moving to the Red Devils in May 2022, Ten Hag suffered two defeats in his first two games, against Brighton & Hove Albion at home and Brentford away, with the loss against Brentford creating a lot of questions for the Dutchman to answer for. The 53-year-old was determined to bring players across from the Netherlands to Manchester and Lisandro Martinez was the first marque signing of the Ten Hag era. However against Brentford, Martinez was criticised for his poor aerial defending with many British pundits stating they did not believe Martinez was at the level necessary to compete in the Premier League.
However in their next Premier League game Ten Hag was able to turn things around with a famous 2-1 win against their bitter rivals Liverpool, with Martinez playing a crucial part in their win due to his front-foot defending. Following the win against Liverpool Ten Hag turned United’s season around, becoming the faster manager to reach 20 competitive wins as manager of the Red Devils. In February of this year United beat Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley to clinch United’s first piece of silverware under their new boss, however the team was unable to make it a domestic cup double as they lost to neighbours Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup Final.
The first season under Ten Hag was seen as a successful one, winning a trophy, bringing in a new style of football with fresh players who looked determined to succeed for the club and dealing with the media frenzy around the issue of Cristiano Ronaldo being at the club but not playing a part under Ten Hag. However the start of the current season has not gone according to plan for the Dutchman, after acquiring players that fit his style of football, such as Mason Mount and former Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana, many expected the team to take strives forwards going into the new season. It has not been the start that Manchester United fans would be hoping for, 5 wins and 5 losses after 10 Premier League games find them 8th in the table, 11 points off top of the table Tottenham.
While the board of Manchester United maintain their support for Erik ten Hag, with chief executive Richard Arnold believing that the club is making ‘good progress’ under the Dutchman, the British media is not so certain. It is unknown as to the direction that Ten Hag is taking the team, with many players looking like they lack the confidence that is necessary to succeed for such a big club. Naturally the speculation around the ownership and impending investment from British billionaire Sir Jim Radcliffe’s Ineos Group does not help Ten Hag, it can be seen that the off field issues at Manchester United are clearly impacting the teams ability to perform on it.
While Ten Hag currently has the backing off the Manchester United hierarchy, if performances continue to disappoint then the Dutchman can expect to come under heavy fire from their faithful fans, with many expecting the team to at least compete for the Champions League positions. With the team currently 8 points from Liverpool in 4th position, Erik ten Hag will have to work harder than ever to turn the clubs fortunes around. He has been able to turn around Manchester United performances before, will he be able to do it again? Only time will tell but one this is for certain, eyes are always watching Manchester United, so if they start to slip up any further expect more questions to come.