Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United tenure so far: Timeline of headaches, stress, and chaos

There’s just never a dull moment when you’re a Manchester United supporter, is there? A look back over just the last decade alone reveals more ups and downs than Space Mountain, to quote the legendary Ray Hudson.

Poor signings, bad managerial appointments, inept ownership, the Super League fiasco, horrendous facilities for the women’s team, overwhelming club debt–it goes without saying Manchester United may not exactly be the most well-run football club.

When Erik ten Hag was appointed as United’s manager over a year ago, you wonder if the Dutch tactician had any idea of what he was walking into. If he didn’t, then the reality of his new situation must have hit like a ton of bricks. In just under 18 months, Ten Hag has been made to endure, navigate, and deal with more headaches than a given handful of managers, let alone just one. It’s easy to forget, considering that Ten Hag rallied his players to a third place finish and a Carabao up trophy last season. Looking back at a timeline of all the stressors and unnecessary setbacks, though, shows that what ten Hag achieved last year was nothing short of miraculous. 

Thrown into the deep end

Manchester United were not in a good place when Ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford. The highly-celebrated return of Cristiano Ronaldo started things on a high note for supporters, but the results stopped coming and it wasn’t long after that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was shown the door. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick didn’t manage to turn United’s fortunes around, which saw United limp to their worst points total, most conceded goals, and fewest wins in the club’s Premier League history–in short, perhaps United’s worst ever season. 

Player morale, as well, was understandably at an all-time low. Former United player and academy product, Jesse Lingard, reportedly revealed to Paul Scholes that the United dressing room was a “disaster” at the time, Eric Bailly famously accused the club of favouring British players, and Luke Shaw questioned the commitment and unity within the squad. Whether these remarks held any truth is up for debate, but the point is that the opinions came from disgruntled, unhappy, frustrated players who carried that bitterness into the dressing room. Ten Hag definitely had his work cut out for him.

First transfer window reality check

If Ten Hag wasn’t fully aware of United’s inept transfer practices, his first summer window must have been a rude awakening. Hoping to hit the ground running and make implementing his tactical philosophy a smoother process, the Dutchman identified players he knew and trusted in his first transfer window. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, we don’t do that at United. It was clear the midfield needed some help, so ten Hag tasked the club with signing his former midfield maestro, Frenkie de Jong. United’s negotiators spent the better part of the summer engaged in a very public pursuit of the Dutch playmaker, only to fail. Instead, ten Hag was granted Christian Eriksen on a free and defensive midfielder Casemiro. Both players were classy additions to the squad, of course, but it was just another case of a United manager not getting his first choice target. 

Early on that summer, ten Hag also identified Brazilian winger Antony as a target, hoping to reunite with another former Ajax player after securing the transfer of Lisandro Martinez. As has been the case several times, though, United’s negotiators delayed until August–two months after ten Hag asked for the winger–and imagine everyone’s shock when Ajax upped their asking price with very little time in the window for them to find a replacement for the Brazilian. These are the individuals in charge of United’s transfers, by the way. Penny for Ten Hag’s thoughts, right? 

Ronaldo’s narcissistic exit

What is football without a bit of romance? What a day to be a United supporter when Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club in the summer of 2021 and stepped onto the pitch against Newcastle United. Seeing him score a brace was the icing on the cake, as the Portuguese striker would end his return season as United’s top scorer and was actually the top scorer in the Premier League in the second half of the season. Fast forward a little more than a year and things looked very different. 

Solskjaer was sacked, Rangnick left to coach the Austrian national team, and ten Hag dropped Ronaldo to allow him to regain fitness after missing preseason for personal reasons. Clearly frustrated with not being the main guy anymore, Ronaldo chose to be petulant and reactive on the pitch, and his negativity culminated with an attention-seeking interview with Piers Morgan that was released during an international break (meaning Ronaldo was far away from Ten Hag). Ronaldo used the interview to bash the club, his teammates, and the manager in a clear attempt to force a move out of United. He got his wish and his contract was terminated, leaving ten Hag with no striker and, once again, fielding question after question about Ronaldo instead of United’s matches, which understandably frustrated the Dutchman. You can’t write this stuff.

For sale: football club, needs some TLC

Remember when it was announced that the Glazer family was putting the club up for sale? Yeah, well that was nearly a year ago and they’re no closer to selling United than they were last November. The vast majority of United supporters celebrated the announcement like the club had just won the Treble. Any hope for a smooth, speedy transition was quickly dashed, however, as the final two suitors–Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group and Sheikh al Thani’s 92 Foundation–have been waiting for months while the Glazers bicker amongst themselves about whether or not they even want to sell. Add to that the ever-increasing asking price–which has reportedly jumped to £10 billion–and the rumor that the Glazers may not wish to sell for another few years, and you’d be forgiven for wondering if they ever planned to sell the club in the first place. 

Despite the fact that ten Hag has nothing to do with the takeover, he’s faced a barrage of questions about it in press conferences. Furthermore, the Glazers still in place as the club’s owners while also looking to continue maximising their profit dividends, meant United’s transfer business was impacted yet again, as we’ll see.

January scramble

United went into the January 2023 window in desperate need of a striker. Once again, however, failure to be proactive and waiting until the transfer window opened to reach out to clubs and agents–along with the Glazers’ refusal to approve even just a little bit of funds–left the club shopping in the loan aisle. Instead of looking at options like contacting soon to be free agent French striker Marcus Thuram and his club at the time, Borussia Monchengladbach, and offering even €7 to €10 million to get him in January and allow Monchengladbach to get a bit of money, rather than see him leave for free, Ten Hag was left with bringing in Dutch striker Wout Weghorst in on loan. 

Major injuries to midfielders Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen also left the club scrambling for midfield cover late in the window, which ultimately led to another loan signing in the form of Bayern Munich midfielder, Marcel Sabitzer. While Weghorst showed energy and fight–two qualities ten Hag loves–he failed to score a single league goal during his six month stint and while Sabitzer could have added quality to United’s midfield, Bayern demanded €25 million to make the move permanent, but then sold him to their league rivals, Borussia Dortmund, for less than €20 million (yet more proof that United are charged more for players). Ten Hag lamented his lack of full backing in January at the end of the season, remarking that “all the clubs around us made huge investments [in the January window], we didn’t.”

Another poor summer window

The summer transfer window may have started strong–Andre Onana, Mason Mount, and Rasmus Hojlund were brought in relatively early–but it was nothing but crickets for nearly two months after that. Even though Moroccan midfielder, Sofyan Amrabat was identified as a target before the window opened, Ten Hag wasn’t backed and found himself waiting for the club to sell players before bringing in anymore signings, meaning Amrabat was signed on loan in the last days of the window, rather than brought in early, where he could have made a difference in the first matches of the season. Sound familiar? 

With the owners leaving United in a position where they needed to sell players to buy players, ten Hag was also forced to watch key defensive targets, Kim Min Jae and Benjamin Pavard join other clubs, due to not being able to raise funds from selling Harry Maguire. Injuries to Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw also saw the club swiftly bring in Spanish left-back, Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Spurs, showing speedy business when under pressure, but a twiddling of the thumbs for the previous two months. More evidence that when their hand is forced, the Glazers spend, but refrain from strengthening the squad when the club is doing well, something Sir Alex Ferguson stressed as a necessity when trying to keep up with rivals.

Mason Greenwood’s return…nevermind

Mason Greenwood was removed from the squad–and football, altogether–before Ten Hag arrived at Manchester United, so he was never really a part of the Dutchman’s plans. That is, until recently. Following the dropping of charges and the results of the club’s own investigation, Greenwood was set to be brought back into the dressing room after two years without kicking a ball. It was obvious that the club planned for this, with no other striker targets identified after securing the transfer of Rasmus Hojlund. The decision was met with overwhelming backlash from the fanbase, though, which ultimately led to United choosing to send the English attacker on loan with La Liga side, Getafe. 

And once again, instead of the powers-that-be who made the decision having to face the media, ten Hag was left to deal with a deluge of Greenwood-related questions, as well as a squad lacking firepower up front now that United’s plans were foiled (similar to the Super League announcement a few years ago.) I’ve never seen a football club repeatedly make the worst decisions time and time again.  

Jadon’s jaded

Following the 3-1 loss to Arsenal before the international break, Erik ten Hag was asked why Jadon Sancho wasn’t included in the matchday squad, to which the Dutchman responded that he and United’s coaching staff didn’t feel the English winger was doing enough in training sessions. Whether you agree with his response or not, ten Hag answered honestly and didn’t unnecessarily bash Sancho or throw him under the bus; he simply held Sancho to the same standards as the rest of his players. Shortly after the post-match interview, though, Sancho made a rare foray onto social media and called out his manager’s comments, claiming they weren’t true and that he was being scapegoated, creating yet another headache for Ten Hag. 

There are some who will say that ten Hag shouldn’t have “aired the dirty laundry in public,” but Sancho has a history of subpar training and unprofessional behavior with every club he’s been at–even his post about being a scapegoat was pretty much copy/pasted from comments he made during his time at Borussia Dortmund, where he was dropped for similar reasons. Ten Hag may be strict, but he treats everyone the same. He dropped Rashford and Garnacho for similar reasons and instead of a cowardly social media post, the two of them took responsibility, got their heads down, and got back to work. It looks like Sancho has removed the post, but with rumours that United were open to offers for the winger from Saudi clubs this summer, he has some work to do if he wants to get back in ten Hag’s good graces, let alone be included in the starting eleven anytime soon.


The most recent headache ten Hag has to endure has been accusations of abuse from multiple women levelled at his big money signing, Antony. Much will be made about the situation, due to United’s status and Antony, in particular, being such an expensive signing, but the club seems to have learned from the Mason Greenwood backlash and swiftly moved to suspend Antony while the investigation of these charges is ongoing. The winger has been removed from the Brazil squad for the time being, as well. 

While United went into preseason with an abundance of attackers, Antony’s absence leaves Ten Hag with very few attacking options, as Amad Diallo is currently injured and Jadon Sancho’s place in the squad up in the air. This leaves the Dutchman with only Rashford, Garnacho, and Facundo Pellistri to choose from. Antony has given his own account in a televised interview with Brazilian TV show Fofocalizando, but much of the reported evidence in this case has been released publicly and while everyone will undoubtedly form their own opinions, it’s probably best to let the authorities sort it out. 

Like I said, never a dull moment, right? There’s almost a feeling of “What next?” among the United fanbase, but at the end of the day, all ten Hag can do is adapt to the curveballs he faces and do what he thinks is best to keep the club moving forward. Last season, he proved that he could do just that and, in spite of the numerous unplanned headaches he’s had to endure only weeks into the 2023/24 season, there’s evidence to suggest he can once again overcome the adversity. He’s earned our trust and now’s the time to unite during these setbacks and back the manager.

More Stories #GlazersOut Antony Cristiano Ronaldo Erik ten Hag Jadon Sancho Manchester United Mason Greenwood