After an expected tricky start to life for Dutch and former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, the 52-year-old is starting to quickly turn things around at Old Trafford.
Having replaced interim manager Ralf Rangnick over the summer, whilst he has not always got his own way in the 2022 summer transfer market, he has been backed and seen the arrivals of free agent Christian Eriksen from Brentford, Tyrell Malacia came in from Feyenoord for a reported £13 million. £48.5 million was spent on Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez, with Ajax benefiting from a further £82 million as a deal for Antony was finally struck on deadline day. There was also the whopping £65 million capture of Casemiro from La Liga giants Real Madrid and even a clever loan deal for Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and that helped keep the Manchester United Tickets flying out the door.
The early arrivals took a bit of time to settle in, as you would expect – a new league, new challenges, new team mates and, of course, a new country to contend with. So unsurprisingly the new Manchester United Squad lost their opening two matches of the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, suffering a 2-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, followed by a disastrous 4-0 defeat to Brentford. Ten Hag kept working away and the next game saw a morale boosting 2-1 victory over Liverpool, then a 1-0 win over Southampton, and a 1-0 triumph over Leicester City.
Sunday’s clash with Arsenal would be an entirely different test for the new boss, as Mikel Arteta had got them performing incredibly well after his own initial struggles at The Emirates Stadium – so much so that ahead of the game they were in top spot and a couple of points clear at this early stage of the season.
Arsenal undoubtedly edged the match at Old Trafford with possession and their overall chances, but again under Ten Hag United are becoming a team that seeks out their moment to cause maximum damage and we did it again with Antony helping himself to a debut goal in the 35th minute, and although Arteta’s side restored parity on the hour mark, Marcus Rashford restored our lead six minutes later, and grabbed himself a brace 15 minutes from the full time whistle to secure another three points and four wins on the spin with a 3-1 victory – and despite summer confusion, Ronaldo continues to play his part as well.
With how Ten Hag’s fortunes have turned – and probably quicker than most thought he would managed given the issues he faced at the club, he was understandably delighted with the win and with very respectful praise for the opposition, he was rightly still demanding more from his players.
“We are happy and satisfied with the win, also the performance against a really good team – they played really well. The spirit from this team, they can deal with setbacks so we did, it is really great and shows your mentality – we have really improved on that. We have the right characters and now it is about cooperation, deal with set backs but also improve – we have to stay calm, stay composed and play our game. You can see that Arsenal are more together, more routines – but our team spirit brings us the win. We can still do things better, with pressing, we had a good plan but the incoming from Zinchenko for instance, that gives them over numbering in midfield. We can be more composed on the ball, don’t give it away. When we got beat in the press we fought back and recovered, especially in transitions we were good.”
Despite the distractions the November break will bring for the 2022 World Cup, this could turn out to be a better than expected season for United given this start.