Can Erik ten Hag revive Manchester United?

A yin and yang relationship is exactly what birthed between Ajax and Erik Ten Hag ever since he first took up the managerial role at the Dutch giants. The former Bayern Munich II coach secured his third Eredivisie title in four seasons, marking an incredible stint at Amsterdam Arena with his ‘mentally draining and highly obsessive’ approach. His style of play – with a versatile 4-2-3-1 outlook – tends to make his teams ferocious on the move and watchful on the back foot, a kind of fluidity that disorganizes opponents on a whim.

Ten Hag will finally take over as Manchester United manager this summer and a change at Carrington is inevitable, especially after a decade of instability in the team’s style of play. Only a complete overhaul can bring forgotten glory back to the Theatre of Dreams. However, it’s not like United haven’t tasted title victories at all, having added five trophies since the departure of arguably the greatest manager of all time.

The Devils’ Downfall

Manchester United’s fall from grace following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular. Seven managers in eight years, including two caretaker managers, have not been able to keep the red boat afloat, calling on for a change at the helm.

David Moyes was the first to come under the sword. The previous season’s Premier League victory maintained hopes of a decent season at the least but the 2013 FA Community Shield is all United could muster. The next title to arrive in the cabinet was the FA Cup in 2015/16 under Louis Van Gaal, before he was sacked to make space for Jose Mourinho. The Special One proved to be the only one to win more than one accolade, as he captured the EFL Cup, The FA Community Shield and UEFA Europa League in 2016/17 – their last title win till date. It would be a first European triumph in seven years, a long wait for fans of the European royalty. However, the popular tactician proved to be yet another brick in the wall.

Since his ousting, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his interim successor Ralf Ragnick have tried steering the ship clear of problems, only to succumb to heightened demands. A cloud of anger, frustration and disapproval has now set upon the club’s faithful supporters, who seek an individual who can push the Red Devils from the depths of despair to the heights of glory.

The Ten Hag Show

One can only speculate at the moment how Ten Hag’s arrival into the dressing room will fare. However, the sure part is the Dutchman’s credentials despite Ajax being his first big European experience. The 52-year-old began his coaching career at Go Ahead Eagles, before moving to Bayern Munich II and then Utrecht.

The Dutch champions have experienced a 73.8%-win rate under Ten Hag since his appointment in December 2017, having won 158 out of 214 games in charge and facing only 29 losses – credit largely to his game intelligence, flexible tactics and man-management skills.

In stark contrast to the conservative style of play adopted by managers in the post-Sir Alex era, Ten Hag can be expected to fully utilise the Manchester United’s power in attack. His style of play allows defenders and midfielders the autonomy and flexibility in the build-up play, all the while stretching the pitch to open up passing lanes to propel the attacks. The 4-3-3 he sets into motion is worthy of a club of United’s grandeur, and moreover his thinking reflects Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in possession and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool out of it, thus making it hard for teams to turn a blind eye.

The epitome of his success has come largely on the European stage, furthering his credibility as a world-class coach. Ask Real Madrid, the club Ajax humiliated in their own backyard, with a reigning European champions crown on their head. Juventus and even German champions Bayern Munich can vouch for Ten Hag’s perseverant management skills.

Changing Fortunes? 

The news of Ten Hag’s appointment has prompted bookmakers, sportsbooks and the best sports betting sites to back United to end up in the top-four, but it comes as no surprise that Manchester City and Liverpool are expected to shuffle places between the first and second. The aforementioned resource sits right with players and punters who want to learn the intricacies of placing their hand. Players, whether old or new, can also benefit from bonuses and rewards such as free bets, loyalty points and accumulator schemes.

Chances are that United might rule out building a long future ahead with Ten Hag if things get bumpy, however it goes without saying that the Dutch manager needs all the backing he can get. His principles have allowed his teams to play impressive and effective possession-based football, but it would be wrong to expect Manchester United to play like Ajax. With the players at his disposal, Ten Hag has all the ability in the world to bring back joy at the Theatre of Dreams.

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