The halfway point of Erik ten Hag’s maiden season at Manchester United was reached earlier this month and the Dutchman’s tenure has been closely examined after he was tasked with turning the club’s fortunes around.
The 12-month period that preceded Ten Hag in the Old Trafford hot seat was arguably the most tumultuous spell in the club’s modern history, with the ill-advised appointment of Ralf Rangnick culminating in a host of changes behind the scenes.
It quickly became clear that Ten Hag was going to become the fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement 10 years ago and after roughly six months, he has torn down and built his own pillars of what he is hoping will become Premier League’s next dynasty.
It didn’t take long for the Dutchman to identify United’s biggest weakness – their midfield. An area that had been neglected for several years was immediately addressed as world-class talents such as Casemiro and Christian Eriksen joined.
Behind them, a familiar face in Lisandro Martinez followed Ten Hag from Amsterdam and the Argentine instantly became a fan-favourite at Old Trafford.
Tyrell Malacia and tricky winger Antony also joined to conclude a risky but strategic transfer window for United, with Ten Hag calling all the shots.
The five signings as a collective have embodied exactly what Ten Hag is about: accountability, fight, willingness to go the extra mile and putting the team over yourself.
The last criterion is, perhaps, something Ten Hag puts above anything else and that’s where he clashed with Cristiano Ronaldo, who was shown the door after stepping out of line on numerous occasions.
That power struggle only strengthened Ten Hag’s hand at United, even though Ronaldo will argue that he got what he wanted in the end.
Correct values and principles off the pitch are paramount but in Ten Hag’s case, he has managed to instil that mentality on it as well. He currently boasts the highest win percentage out of any permanent United manager in the club’s history. In 29 games, he has won as many games as United managed in the entirety of last season (20).
The odds of United winning the Premier League in Ten Hag’s first season were low and halfway through the season, it still looks unlikely but it’s far from impossible.
If anything, Ten Hag has set the foundations for a title charge in his second campaign and it can almost be guaranteed that the return on your money will be less than at the same point in 2022.
Manchester City, as ever, will be favourites to triumph again in 2024 but United’s odds will be lower than in many years, as you would find at WeGamble.
Speaking before United’s heartbreaking 3-2 defeat at the Emirates Stadium last weekend, Ten Hag admitted his players were not getting carried away by any talk of a title challenge.
“The fans may dream [of the title] but we’re not. We have to keep our feet on the ground and face that in our game there’s a lot to improve,” he said.
“It can’t happen that after half time [against City] we’re losing so much control in the game, for instance, and then getting down. It’s not necessary. In top football small details have a big impact and we have to keep working on that and keep investing in that.”