Manchester Madness: The mess Erik ten Hag has dealt with

After a hellish interim period under the tenure of Ralf Rangnick, we finally saw Erik ten Hag appointed as the next permanent manager of Manchester United in April 2022, to the excitement of the United faithful who had been crying out for a manager with his style, playing methods and management ability to come in and get the club back on track.

Not without obvious challenges, Ten Hag came into the club with his work cut out.

A side devoid of a recognisable footballing side, begging for some stability, a side needing some, as Rangnick described “open heart surgery”, which tells the tale of just how bad things were at the club on a footballing level.

Enter the Dutchman, accompanied by Mitchell van der Gaag and the returning Steve McClaren, the coaching staff were assembled to tackle the issues head on and Ten Hag got to work on forging a side that could compete and bring silverware.

In his maiden season at the club, he exceeded expectations, given what he had to work with when he arrived, by securing a welcomed return to Champions League football, a trophy in the shape of the Carabao Cup and reached the final of the FA Cup. Considering what we are about to delve into, this was no mean feat.

Fast forward to the start of the current season, we are a mere 4 games in and the form on the pitch, 2 wins, 2 losses, is less turbulent than whats been happening off it.

A myriad of occurrences at the club that wouldn’t look out of place in a season of Harchester United’s “Dream Team” series from years gone by, have brought the club to its knees in the media, sadly, more than once.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The return to Manchester United that many dreamt about for so long, finally happened when the Portuguese superstar did a last minute U-turn from joining our neighbours at the Etihad, to the delight of the Red side of Manchester. This return garnered some amazing moments on the pitch, right from this return to Old Trafford against Newcastle United. A day that will live long in the memory of United fans, especially those in attendance, as a special feeling of “this could be the game-changer” reared it’s head as Ronaldo rolled back the years grabbing a brace on his second United debut. Sadly, the love affair was short lived.

Ronaldo’s high expectations and his demand for greatness seemed to cause his attitude to wain towards the club over time. Unhappy with teammates, manager, training ground, dinner ladies, he left the club under a cloud of shameful behaviour which he punctuated with a tell all interview with motor mouth and cheerleader, Piers Morgan. This interview left Ten Hag and the club with no choice but to see Ronaldo leave for a second time, this time far different to the first.

A drama played out across the world in front of everyone, TenHag had to handle the exit of one of the greatest players to ever play the game, to ensure the side’s fractured togetherness remain somewhat intact.

Jesse Lingard

From a global superstar to one who thought he was, but whose talent couldn’t cash the cheques he was writing with his attitude and his brothers’ mouth. Lingard wanted out of United, and had a chance to leave for West Ham after a successful loan period in London. Instead, another player who ended up departing in a lees then favourable fashion. Swipes taken at the club via his brothers’ social media became far too regular, with Lingard proving to be another rotten apple in the bunch, Lingard now sits at home after a less than successful single season at Nottingham Forest, without a club, instead doing podcasts with Steven Bartlett as he awaits, one could speculate, a move to Saudi?

Dean Henderson

Henderson ran out the door as Ten Hag was due to arrive, with the second choice keeper frantically panicking that if he was seen, the manager would force him to stay due to his incredible talent.

This formed just a part of Henderson’s talkSPORT sit down interview, where he laughably lauded himself as Lev Yashin the second to the public, while going in on the club & managers in a childish plea for attention and recognition of an ability he has failed to produce since.

A stint at Forest, who decided against signing him when Henderson was clearly available at a relatively low fee, was followed by a rather quiet summer window as he quickly realised Real Madrid and Barcelona wouldn’t be knocking down the door for his signature, he finally bud farewell and made his way to London. Not to Arsenal, Chelsea or Spurs, no, he signed for Crystal Palace.

We are all still wondering just what it was Ten Hag would have seen, had he stayed…

Jadon Sancho, part 1

After a big money move to Manchester, Sancho who was touted as a generational talent on joining, simply wasn’t cutting it on the pitch. Poor form, lacklustre performances, he had turned from an exciting signing to a wilted rose amid claims that he was suffering from mental health issues. Ten Hag afforded Sancho a 3 month leave of absence to get himself back in the correct headspace and level of fitness required to perform at the club, in a very mature and quiet fashion, sparing the player from the baying wolves in the media. The player returned, smile on his face and all seemed to be well again with Sancho and TenHag, with United fans expecting this to be the start of his career at United proper. More on this later…

Harry Maguire

First team captain, Harry Maguire, has had a torrid time the last few seasons at United, plain for all to see as he fumbled through games with a glaring lack of confidence, he has become a shadow of his former self as a footballer. Rumours of a move away from the club in the summer to West Ham quickly became stories of the deal falling through as Maguire decided he was better served staying and fighting for his place at United, much to the fans bemusement, the English international first choice centre half has fallen to the lowly spot of 5th choice in United’s centre of defence. This, off the back of Ten Hag being forced to strip him of the captaincy, a rare occurrence at a football club when a player remains part of the squad, to be replaced by star player, Bruno Fernandes.

Mason Greenwood

I dare say the biggest scandal in my time following United, saw the future megastar in the making, Mason Greenwood stood down from all duties as he went under investigation for some heinous crimes against his partner. A saga that went on far too long and was front page news every other week when any update emerged, the attacker has left the club on loan to Getafe, after the club finally came to the decision he wouldn’t play for us again.


Another player coming under investigation for domestic violence against his ex partner, not long after Greenwood’s departure was confirmed. The Brazilian winger has been dropped from the national team squad during international break and, subsequently, dropped from the United squad under a “mutual agreement” while investigations are ongoing. Ten Hag moves out of the frying pan and into the fire with yet another right winger being lost to police enquiry for crimes that could potentially see him follow Greenwood out the door if found guilty.

Sancho, part 2

We find ourselves back with further issues to report on Sancho’s United career. After being dropped from the squad against Arsenal, Ten Hag, when asked about it, confirmed it was due to poor performance in training. Sancho took to social media immediately, calling the manager a liar and portraying a scene where he is the victim of being hard done by, not the first time in his football career he’s felt the need to portray himself as such. Doomsday talks have seemingly failed, with John Murtough and Richard Arnold having stepped in to try broker peace, but if reports are to be believed, he will depart the club in January. That’s the 3rd right winger in this article alone that Ten Hag has had to deal with massive problems with, must be some voodoo at work here on our right hand side!


Arguably the biggest issue at the club since the managers arrival has been the question of who our owners will be long term. The Glazer family put the club up for sale months ago, with 2 main bidders primed to purchase, both with strong bids in meeting the “asking price” (albeit this price seems to change and raise as the story plays out in true Glazer fashion) and we find ourselves back, once again, with 1958 led protests against the clubs owners in an attempt to force their final exit. Disheartening, considering most expected this sale to be, at the least, confirmed by now.

Instead Ten Hag is hamstrung by FFP constraints in the transfer window, with the usual Glazernomics at play last January in some lees than desirable cheap option loan deals in the misfiring Wout Weghorst and the hapless Marcel Sabitzer, followed by this summers questionable signing of 36 yesr old Jonny Evans, Spurs 3rd choose left back Reguillon and plugging the midfield with Amrabat in a deal that could, and should, have been done and dusted 2 months prior.

It’s been a tumultuous time for Ten Hag, the team and the fans, since his arrival and one could be forgiven for thinking “I wouldn’t be surprised if this man walked away from all of this” given the outrageous issues he has had to traverse so far. Rumours of dressing room toxicity is once more raising its head above the parapet as has happened under every manager since Sir Alex and it would appear that Ten Hag’s work is far from down, both on and off the pitch.

He may have understood the gravity of the task at hand when taking on one of the biggest, if not the biggest, jobs in football management, but unless he had a crystal ball of doom, he wouldn’t have dared consider the nightmare he we about to enter and tackle, head on.

We can only hope that he continues to show the strength and fortitude he has shown to date and that gritty determination of, it’s my way or you’re out, continue to remove the topic elements from the dressing room while on pitch systems are adapted to give the team a recognisable system as a Ten Hag side.

I fear for him, long term.

Not many men would be able to continually face these mountains and keep on climbing, but as the wonderful Alternative MUFC has instilled in us all, Bald Is Best.

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1 Comment

  1. This ought to be an eye-opener for those prats already calling for ETH to be sacked. Presumably these fools have no knowledge of Sir Alex’s initial struggles: THREE YEARS to the first trophy; not first season as Ten Hag managed.
    He’s had an astonishing amount of things to deal with in his efforts to rebuild United, and as we all know, more and more keeps going wrong. Thankfully, I believe ETH is strong enough to deal with it all and we’ll end up again with a team of which we can be proud.
    A note on the takeover: my Sunday paper stated that the Raine Group promised the Leeches there would be 200 – 300 groups interested in bidding, and doubtless the Leeches imagined quick-fire bids shooting up in increments of one billion pounds. Bit of a shock to their nasty, shrivelled, avaricious souls to end up with only 2, valuing the club at a ‘mere’ 6 billion. Doubtless why things have stalled, if that newspaper tale is true

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