Manchester United's major issues that Erik ten Hag must fix

New deal confirmed 

Manchester United's major issues that Erik ten Hag must fix

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Manchester United have reaffirmed their commitment to Erik ten Hag by extending his contract by one-year until 2026. Three weeks after the end of the season, United informed Ten Hag of their decision to keep him after well-documented talks with potential replacements. After an internal review, Old Trafford chiefs decided to stick with Ten Hag despite constant speculation over his future but new United sporting director Dan Ashworth explained the decision in a statement today. It read: “With two trophies in the past two seasons, Erik has reinforced his record as one of the most consistently successful coaches in European football. “While the club’s review of last season highlighted areas for improvement, it also reached a clear conclusion that Erik was the best partner for us to work with in driving up standards and outcomes.”

The 54-year-old led United to their worst ever Premier League finish in 8th place but they secured Europa League qualification for next season by winning the FA Cup. It was reported before that final that Ten Hag would be sacked regardless of the result but the shock triumph over rivals Manchester City reaffirmed the United support’s backing of Ten Hag. It’s widely accepted that an overhaul of United’s squad is required this summer but what does Ten Hag need to improve as he enters his third season in charge? 

Erik ten Hag’s first two seasons at Manchester United compared

Ten Hag’s maiden season in England was an unquestionable success after arriving from Ajax. The Dutch boss inherited an unbalanced squad that had recorded United’s lowest ever point tally in Premier League history under Ralf Rangnick. Ten Hag wasn’t afraid to make big decisions as he got rid of Cristiano Ronaldo and United finished third to secure Champions League football and they won their first silverware in six years with the League Cup. 

However, as the graphic above illustrates, United endured a huge downturn in form and performance levels in Ten Hag’s second season in charge. His points per game record dropped from 2.16 to 1.63 and United finished with a negative goal difference in the league last season. United also lost seven more games last season than in Ten Hag’s maiden season despite playing ten fewer games and they only won 50% of their games in all competitions, compared to 68% during the 2022/23 campaign. While United were decimated by defensive injuries, Ten Hag’s stubborn commitment to playing transitional football left them completely exposed defensively and only Luton and Sheffield United faced more shots in the league (444). They also finished bottom of their Champions League group behind Galatasary and Copenhagen and he must produce better results in Europe next season.

What Erik ten Hag needs to improve at Manchester United next season?

Lots. United struggled to score goals last season while their terrible defensive record was alarming. They scored the joint-fewest goals (57) amongst the teams who finished in the top half of the league and there was an over-reliance on Rasmus Højlund. The youngster was United’s only recognisable senior striker with Anthony Martial constantly unavailable and it was a huge burden on Hojlund during his first season in England. The 58 goals that United conceded was the most that they’ve lost in a single Premier League season. Injuries were a major factor as Ten Hag was constantly forced to shuffle his defence, naming over 20 different back four combinations. Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez missed the majority of the campaign and United must sign a first-choice centre-back to partner Martinez with Raphaël Varane departing. INEOS – fronted by Ratcliffe – gained sporting control of United in March and it’s imperative they improve the transfer record at Old Trafford as recruitment has been a major issue across the last decade. United have more freedom than in previous seasons in the market but they will still be restricted by financial regulations and offloading players will be a necessity.

 

Transfermarkt recently analysed 13 players who could be viewed as surplus to requirements and some high-profile players like CasemiroJadon Sancho and Harry Maguire could leave. A new centre-back, centre-forward and midfielder are United’s priorities this summer and there will be an onus on developing younger talents like AmadAlejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo. It’s understood that Ten Hag’s impressive record in successfully integrating academy talents into the first-team was significant in INEOS’ decision to keep him as manager and was another positive. 

Were Manchester United correct to keep Erik ten Hag? 

The decision to keep Ten Hag has split opinion but he enjoyed significant support from the United fanbase. There wasn’t a standout candidate to replace the Dutchman and ultimately, United sounded out other candidates and decided Ten Hag represented the best option. Finishing 8th in the Premier League is unacceptable for a club of United’s stature and there must be a drastic improvement in performance levels despite mitigating factors behind the underperformance last season. Ten Hag was unwilling to adapt his philosophy until the last few weeks of the season and it proved rewarding as his tactical masterclass against Man City in the FA Cup final showed. 

After the game, Ten Hag bullishly stated: “Two trophies in two seasons and three finals… not bad. If they don’t want me anymore, I’ll go somewhere else and win trophies. That’s what I do”. There is substance to Ten Hag’s comments as he’s won a trophy in his last seven seasons across his tenures at Ajax and United. As the graphic above illustrates, Ten Hag’s record of winning trophies in seven consecutive seasons ranks amongst some iconic managers.

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