Erik ten Hag looking on over his team against Bournemouth
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Does Erik ten Hag Deserve a Chance Under INEOS Leadership?

2023–2024 has been a disastrous season for Manchester United by every standard imaginable. After the highs of the Carabao Cup win and finishing in the Top 4, Manchester United fans were expecting a lot more from this year’s campaign.

Since the beginning, injuries have decimated the team. They have had a disastrous UEFA Champions League campaign. They have been sitting in 6th place for much of the season, and not to mention the quality of football that Manchester United play has not been up to standard.

This has opened up the debate about whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United forward under INEOS leadership or if a change is needed.

Injuries Under Ten Hag

One of the main highlights of this Manchester United campaign is the number of injuries in the team. Since pre-season, Manchester United players have looked tired and not at the required standard, which was clear in the first game of the season against Wolverhampton.

Then injuries hit every player on the team except for Dalot and Bruno Fernandes. Some fans take injuries as a mitigating circumstance, which gives Erik ten Hag some leeway. But when a team has more than 50 injuries in one season, shouldn’t the coaching staff bear some responsibility? The majority of Manchester United players injuries are muscular, not contact-related, which points to the wrong training regime being implemented.

Also, Liverpool played 31 different defensive combinations and are still competing for the Premier League title. Manchester City mostly played the first half of the season without Haaland and De Bruyne and are still competing on three fronts.

Looking below the top three, Aston Villa and Tottenham had their fair share of injuries and are 11 points above Manchester United. Newcastle, who lost their major summer signing and also have a poor injury record, are above Manchester United.

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Even Wolverhampton, who barely have any forwards, are just six behind Manchester United. Furthermore, all the above teams never lost their identity, no matter how many injuries decimated their starting XI.

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Lack Of a Team Identity

Every Premier League team, no matter where it is in the standings, has a clear identity. When you are ready to face any side in the league, even fans know how their opposition is likely to set up and their weaknesses and strengths, except Manchester United.

Nobody knows what Manchester United is trying to do. Are they a transition team? Are they a possession team? Are they a high pressing team? Are they a low-block team?

After two years in charge, no one knows what Erik Ten Hag is trying to achieve with his team or what the final product at the end of this process is. This is one of the blatant issues at the club.

Lack of Progress or a Clear Project

This season, Manchester United have been repeating the same mistakes all season. The team concedes consecutive goals in a short space of time far too often. They also concede often in the last minutes.

Tell any Manchester United fan that they have conceded a goal and they will instinctively reply that this goal is a cutback or from a set piece.

The team has been lacking a proper midfield all season and they are reaching relegation-level numbers in shots conceded per game and xGA against, is that really what Erik ten Hag calls progress?

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Why sign Andre Onana only to have him dump long balls all game? Why is Wan-Bissaka playing as a LB and Dalot as a RB? Why is Casemiro being asked to cover vast spaces of the pitch and play as a deep playmaker when clearly these are his worst traits?

A manager’s job is to play a system that covers his players weaknesses and enhances their strengths. Yet, the opposite is happening at Manchester United; the system is exposing the players weaknesses and hiding their strengths.

When mistakes happen repeatedly and they are not corrected, it is on the manager. It is the manager’s fault if the team is not understanding the message or if he is failing to recognise the problems, especially given that the players are unmistakably supporting Erik ten Hag and that the Dutch manager has not experienced burnout from them like his predecessors.

Also, what project is built on players that may not be here next season? Manchester United has been leaning on 35-year-old Johnny Evans, Harry Maguire, and Scott McTominay. These three may not be in the squad next season and it is not a secret that Erik ten Hag was looking at selling McTominay and Maguire last summer.

So what is the benefit in trying to teach a different style of play if they may not be here next season to play it? Why not give the chance to youth players? Other than Mainoo and Kawbwala, no youth player has been offered the chance to be part of the project.

Wrong Choices in the Transfer Market

The Dutch coach would not have taken the United job without control in the transfer market.

“If they aren’t granted, I won’t do it. I am ultimately responsible and accounted for the results. I don’t want to be the sole ruler, I stand for cooperation, but control in transfers is a condition for me.”

– Erik ten Hag when he was hired as Manchester United manager

While Erik ten Hag is not responsible for paying 100 million euros for Antony, it is fair to wonder if the Dutch manager identified the correct RW from Ajax when another one, Mohammed Kudus, who cost half the price, has been taking the Premier League by storm.

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It is also fair to wonder where Manchester United would have been this season if they sold Maguire and McTominay in the summer.

While the manager should not be held ultimately accountable for the failure in the transfer market, the Dutch coach is correct in claiming that he should be judged by the results, which have been calamitous. Not just the score lines but the performances since the start of the season have been relegation-level.

In actuality, the results have flattered this team because all expected point models put United in the lower half of the table, which would be more level with their performances. All season, United have been dominated by teams in the lower half of the table.

Now, Manchester United fans count the number of shots conceded against their team, not the goals. Manchester United have a -1 goal difference in the 33rd game week of the season.

While working under the Glazers is always a mitigating circumstance, is there really any progress that Manchester United are losing by getting rid of ten Hag?

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