Tag Archives: Erik Ten Hag

Manchester United Win. Now What?

Okay, now that the FA Cup enthusiasm has waned, let me analyze it.

Erik Ten Hag had the players he wanted for the first time this season: Raphael Varane partnering in the back with Lautaro Martinez, with Amrabat in front of them, Marcus Rashford on one flank and Alejandro Garnacho on the other. United did not play with an out-and-out striker — Bruno Fernandez was the shadow striker – so clearly Ten Hag was going to rely on his inverted players to score, and he had no choice but to play on the counter against a team that is probably the best in the world at the high press.

It worked. They defended deep, and worked the flanks deftly switching play – that long searching pass from Rashford over the top to Garnacho from left to right flank so Garnacho could find Kobbie Mainoo on the opposite flank with space and nobody marking him was brilliant. Then when United got a 2-0 lead, they brought in Hojlund as a target man to replace Fernandez, keeping City defenders in the back instead of charging forward.

All that said, Ten Hag needs to be replaced. Even though he had the suffocating injury issues they had all season and was not able to play the players he wanted to play, there was tons of depth on United to put together a patchwork team that at least should have finished in the top four. Scoring should not have been the issue it was, not with scoring inverted forwards Rashford, Garnacho, and soon Jadon Sancho available (Sancho is coming back after his loan spell at Dortmund, so here’s hoping the next manager will know what he has).

With a porous defense his high press was not going to work, leaving way too much space in the middle and center. He was way too loyal to players he acquired who played for him before (Antony in particular). Most of all, he sacrificed chemistry and familiarity for ad hoc discipline – Sancho should have never been banished from the locker room, and Rashford should have never been deactivated – so he lost the locker room; the players simply just don’t like playing for him.

This was so obvious the several times they lost to inferior teams and bottom feeders they had no business either drawing or losing to, even at home. Ten Hag never has a set lineup, and he doesn’t clearly define what the players’ roles are. Glad he came up with a game plan to defeat City in this one really important game finally with the players he wanted all along, but it isn’t the cup competitions that a manager is judged by. It’s the league season, and with expectations as they are at United, this was just unacceptable.