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Manchester United’s open heart surgery

Manchester United’s open heart surgery


Erik Ten Hag will be the Manchester United manager from next season. But if the team needs “open heart surgery,” will he be given the space he needs to complete the job?

After a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday, Manchester United sit six points outside the Champions League places with just four games to play. To make things even bleaker, they’d lost 4-0 to Liverpool in midweek, too.

It looks set to be another disappointing season for them, even though they brought in highly-rated Ralf Rangnick in November.

But his appointment was unusual because it was only ever meant to be temporary. The plan all along was to move Ralf Rangnick into an upstairs role once he’d had time to properly assess the situation at Old Trafford. 

“There has to be a rebuild, for me even in December after the first three or four weeks, for me that was obvious, but right now it doesn’t help and for us it’s extremely embarrassing…”

Sky Sports News

And now he’s completed his enquiries. The results are damning

“The good thing about what’s happened…one of the very few good things is that it’s crystal clear, it’s not that difficult…you don’t even need glasses to analyse and to see where the problems are. So now it’s only about how do we solve them? And for me it’s clear, it’s not enough to do some little minor amendments, some little issues here and there, some minor cosmetic things…no. This is…in medicine you would see this is an operation at the open heart.”

Red Cache Network

But Ralf Rangnick will only be overseeing the open heart surgery. He needed a surgeon to perform the operation itself. 

And he’s now chosen that surgeon.

“…away from you both to bring you huge breaking news that Erik Ten Hag has been announced as the new first team manager of Manchester United…”

Sky Sports News

Erik Ten Hag comes with an excellent reputation after almost five seasons in charge of Ajax. 

He’s won two league titles and could add a third this season. Before he joined Ajax, they hadn’t won the Eredivisie in three years. 

Perhaps most notably for Manchester United fans, he’s had success in the Champions League too.

After Ajax had failed to reach the competition’s knockout stages since 2006, Erik Ten Hag took his side to the semi-final in 2018/19, knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus along the way.

His formations and approach to each game are varied, but with the underlying philosophy of vibrant, attacking football.

But, despite his pedigree, Erik Ten Hag has a mammoth task ahead of him. Morale among United fans is low after several managers have tried – and failed – to get anywhere near the success they became used to under Sir Alex Ferguson. 

Big name managers have come and gone.

And so the question really is: will he be given the space he needs among a fan base whose patience has already been worn thin?

“Why don’t they say it’s a five year plan? Why three years and then another year? Three years is…it soon goes. You ain’t gonna do anything in the first six months…”

“You know why Merse, it’s cos I think they think they can win in the meantime. And I’m not sure who is making the decisions…whether it’s a football person, but you’re absolutely right, they’re gonna need that amount of time…”

Sky Sports

Ex-player Rio Ferdinand has already formulated a list of tasks for the incoming boss.

“These are the six points that actually, the manager can have influence on. You can talk about stadiums and training grounds, redevelopment…that’s not where Ten Hag’s going to be coming into play. You talk about the six points, and I think setting the culture…I’ve mentioned that many times over the last couple of months, about the culture, and with that I mean having areas where there’s discipline, having players made accountable on and off the pitch.”

BT Sport

The five other areas that Rio Ferdinand suggested that Erik Ten Hag needed to address were improving recruitment, making a structural reset, embedding a clear playing style, embracing youth and developing players.

In other words, a complete overhaul.

So you can see why Ralf Rangnick referred to this as “open heart” surgery. Erik Ten Hag has a huge task ahead of him. 

You could argue that those six areas highlighted by Rio Ferdinand all needed addressing back when Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down. 

But the problems at Manchester United have continued over several years, each time becoming worse. Their condition has deteriorated.

Can Erik Ten Hag be the man to give Manchester United a clean bill of health?

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and mixed by Imy Harper.