Four Manchester United problems Erik ten Hag must solve if he is appointed manager – George Smith


The size of the challenge awaiting Manchester United’s next permanent manager is an enormous one.

After signing the likes of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo in last summer’s transfer window, the club was expected to launch a genuine Premier League title charge. Instead, with nine games of the season to go, they face the prospect of missing out on the top four and a place in next season’s Champions League.

Being unable to boast about Champions League football would be a huge blow for the club, least of all in their attempts to bring in new signings who want to compete with the very best that Europe has to offer on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Nevertheless, they need a manager who will come in and get the club moving in the right direction once again, regardless of whether they are in Europe’s premier club competition or not.

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As revealed by the Manchester Evening News, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is United’s preferred choice to succeed Ralf Rangnick ahead of next season. The Dutchman has been linked with the job since November and is a popular choice amongst the supporters.

Should he land the job, he will have a wealth of issues to address, over both the short-term and long-term. With that in mind, MEN Sports you have picked out four things that the Dutchman must try and correct if he lands the job.

Establish a clear philosophy and system

At Ajax, Ten Hag has been highly successful as a result of the strict, uniform philosophy they have in place. Everyone knows their jobs and sings from the same hymn sheet.

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Over the last few years they have made significant progress, both on and off the pitch, as a result of the vision that has been mapped out from the very top of the club. It has given Ten Hag stability in what he has been tasked with doing and it has enabled him to work to the very best of his capabilities, all whilst bringing success to the Johan Cruyff Arena.

At United, vision and a clear philosophy has been lacking, meaning they must put that in place, with Ten Hag’s help, to ensure the Dutchman can replicate his success at Old Trafford. United need to develop a recognizable brand of football that supporters love and players understand.

Whilst it is down to those at the top of the club to map out a clear vision for everyone to follow, such as Richard Arnold and John Murtough, Ten Hag, should he land the job, also deserves his say on matters. His reputation of following policy at Ajax should not be ignored.

Make Old Trafford a fortress again

Liverpool. Manchester City. Middlesbrough. Atletico Madrid. The list of dismal, forgettable Old Trafford defeats that United have suffered this season has been growing throughout the season – and could still do so by May.

The days of Old Trafford being one of the most difficult grounds in the country to visit are over. Instead, it has been a place where numerous clubs have sensed blood upon their arrival and given their supporters a day out to remember.

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A club of United’s size needs to make their own ground a fortress and a place that opponents dread visiting. However he would do it, it would have to be a top priority for Ten Hag.

Whilst the defeats to rivals Liverpool and City were embarrassing, albeit in two very different manners, the failure to beat the likes of Aston Villa, Everton and Wolves could be what ends up costing United this term. Therefore, it is clear that Ten Hag has a very obvious problem to fix with their home form.

Get Marcus Rashford firing

If one player within the United squad needs an injection of freshness, Marcus Rashford is that man. The England international’s career has drawn to a halt in recent months and he is in desperate need of being picked up off the floor and being installed with fresh motivation.

Marcus Rashford has experienced a difficult season at Manchester United.
Marcus Rashford has experienced a difficult season at Manchester United.

As reported by the Manchester Evening News Earlier this month, Rashford is considering his future at the club ahead of the summer, but it would take a sizeable offer for United to let him go. Although he has experienced a difficult season, there is a talented player in there somewhere, that cannot be denied.

Although he is no longer a young kid looking to make the grade, he is only 24, meaning there is plenty of time for him to develop and live up to the hype that greeted him when he burst onto the scene in 2016. Ten Hag has shown his ability to improve players, particularly youngsters, via his methods and there is no reason why his presence cannot rub off on Rashford.

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He has lost his way this season, like several members of the squad. But he remains a hugely talented individual and Ten Hag could hold the key to unlocking him again.

Make United difficult to beat

It sounds a typical footballing cliche but United’s defensive troubles this season have been alarming. No club currently inside the top-eight in the Premier League table have conceded more goals in the league than them.

They have conceded 40 times in the league this season, meaning they have only conceded four fewer than they did in the whole of last season. Their vulnerability at the back has been exposed time and time again and they need to tighten things up.

The signing of Varane last summer was meant to improve their defensive outlook, but his injury troubles, coupled with injuries elsewhere and poor form from others, has meant United have not been able to secure the solidity that they were hoping for. However, a new season and a new era ought to bring fresh optimism.

Ajax have been excellent defensively this term, conceding just 13 league goals, highlighting the level of work that Ten Hag puts into defensive duties. Every club and league is different, but his track record of him, in that sense, speaks for itself.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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