11 Comments
Aug 17, 2022Liked by Grace Robertson

Using the Jack Welch comment to start what is otherwise a great overview of Man U's problems was a not so good choice. Welch's managing for the 'long term' existed only until the end of his tenure and the company imploded as it was leveraged with too many financial assets that could not be easily taken off the balance sheet. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement the club has not had any coherent plan. One Europa League title under Mourinho is it.

As an Ajax supporter, I watched ten Hag since he took over in mid-season 2017. He had the type of players that could implement his system and the next season they made their improbable Champions League run and were just five seconds short of making the finals in 2019. Can he succeed at Man U? I'm not so sure. The Premier League is far different than the Dutch league with many more strong teams. There is no week off the way there was at Ajax when they would play Go Ahead Eagles or FC Emmen. Even bottom half table teams in the EPL put up a strong fight and as we have seen can win. ten Hag will need at least three seasons to turn the club around and at least half of the current starting 11 will need to be replaced. this is an ambitious task and one whose implementation was need five years ago.

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Aug 17, 2022Liked by Grace Robertson

I think that part of the danger of hiring someone like Ten Hag is that it is such a leap in terms of (for lack of a better word) “prestige” that he doesn’t want to get canned and then never get another crack at a top job, even if what is maybe better for the club is the kind of reset that Brendan Rodgers was tasked with at Liverpool (who then created problems himself when he tried to make “top” signings like Balotelli and Benteke, but I digress. I’m talking about getting Coutinho in and dumping Charlie Adam)

at this point it feels like *only* someone with a certain level of pedigree - like Conte, who I worried would get the job for a while - will have the combination of courage and unassailable reputation to clear out the riffraff AND build the next great United side

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Aug 17, 2022·edited Aug 17, 2022

Hi Grace, great stuff as always.

I don't think Manchester United are that far away from being basically fine, which this season means fairly comfortably sixth (unless one of the other big sides takes a dunk that so far doesn't look likely).

Why? The talent is basically there. Of course they need a better behind-the-ball midfielder but generally the squad is alright.

I don't know how stubborn ten Hag is tactically, so he may be a solid 4-3-3 man but I'd say this squad looks best suited to a 3-5-2 formation and if I were he I'd be drilling this ahead of using it against Liverpool.

Heaton for De Gea - as surely there has to be some consequence for his performance at the weekend, and when faced with no short passing options the former Burnley man will surely not be shy about going long.

Then Varane-Maguire-Martinez as the back line. Dalot and Shaw as wingbacks; Fred, Eriksen and Bruno as a kind of 'two sixes and an eight' midfield. Then Ronaldo as the central striker with a more mobile player alongside him. Sancho for me.

It might not be what ten Hag wants to do long term, but he should maybe look at Thomas Tuchel and see there's plenty of upside in rolling with the punches and deploying a side to maximise the talent on the books rather than a system that needs different players to make it really work.

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

I'm not saying it would have been tolerated by the impatient parts of the fanbase or the sections of the media who would have made bank with "crisis club" content every single week, but unless United were willing to treat this as a fallow year, and let Erik ten Hag effectively bin off 11 or so players and replace them with new, less obvious signings or youngsters promoted from within, I don't see the point in what is supposed to be happening at this point, and it certainly won't be some big reset to deliver a brave new era. You're not going to get that with this squad as it is. They've shown they can't really adapt to new ideas. They're actually quite limited both collectively and individually, in some cases. A total waste of everyone's time that is going to set them up for bigger problems in the future as their range of options are diminished every time they turf off a manager and go to buy another set of new players coming for money rather than logic or pride. Stupid, stupid football club.

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Think all 4 points are spot on, but would have some minor disagreements about them.

Would disagree with your assessment of Solskjaer. Think he tried to emulate the Zidane style of letting the players run things, which is fine if you have a team of world class players who are almost all highly conscientious professionals- but he didn't. I'm starting to think his style has led to a longer-term problem whereby the players are now much more resistant to Ten Hag's extremely authoritarian style than they would have otherwise been. But that's just speculating.

My stronger disagreement would be about De Gea. I think not being a goalkeeper that can play out from the back is the least of his and United's problems right bow. I think his decline in performance has been apparent for awhile, and, as smarterscout noted recently, his numbers are now that of a somewhat average keeper (https://smarterscout.com/articles/david-de-gea-manchester-united-premier-league-champions-league-manuel-neuer-bayern-munich).

Also wonder if you're wrong about Rashford too: maybe he was never that good? Or at the very least has "Werner Syndrome" where he is extremely good in a certain style of play, but outside it he's not so useful? My evidence for this is that he has never really been a natural goalscorer at any time in his career, neither has he been particularly creative. His best moments have arguably come when United were a counter-attacking side and he had a lot of space to exploit in behind or on the flanks.

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