How Erik Ten Hag can solve Man United problems explained

Manchester United crisis is on the rise. This season has compounded the Red Devil’s spectacular fall from grace following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure at the end of the 2013 Premier League season.

Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the Red Devils, and their 4-1 defeat against their “noisy neighbours” Manchester City sparked huge criticism and outrage from all those loyal to the red half of Manchester.

After a torrid start to the season under Ole Ounnar Solskjær, the former United striker was shown the door in mid-November. The Norwegian oversaw just five wins of a possible 12, losing five and drawing 2, numbers which resulted in the termination of his three-year association as a manager with the club.

Many eyebrows were raised when Ralf Rangnick was brought in as Ole’s replacement, even if it was just to see united through to the end of the season. Prior to being named manager of United, the German hadn’t set foot in the dressing room since the 2015-16 season when he was in charge of RB Leipzig, in the German second division. Before his appointment, he was working as sporting director at Lokomotiv Moscow.

It’s no secret that his days as Man United manager are numbered. There have been rumours in and around the dressing room that many of the players are unhappy with the German and his supposed outdated methods.

Just last week the tensions boiled over between him and Cristiano Ronaldo, a feud which is said to have stemmed from his exclusion from the starting 11 in the Manchester derby.

United are now on the hunt for a new manager as they look to embark on a long term rebuild with a more sustainable model. This became abundantly clear when the club chose not to approach Antonio Conte last November, a manager with a similar profile to José Mourinho given his tendency as a serial short-term trophy winner.

It’s for the above reason that Erik Ten Hag is one of the names at the top of United’s shortlist. It’s worth noting that the Dutchman’s current contract runs until June 2023, meaning a deal must be struck between the two clubs if United want the manger to take charge this summer.

The United’s board are admirers of Ten Hag’s work. He has impressed at Ajax: during his time in charge of the Dutch champions, he has won two Eredivisie titles and reached the semi-finals of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1997.

What’s more, Ten Hag also defeated the current holders at that time Real Madrid 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in round 16. Since his appointment in 2019, he has an extremely impressive win percentage of around 73%. At 52 years of age, he could oversee a long-term rebuild, provided the board don’t grow impatient and give him the necessary time to implement the overhaul needed at United.

What do Erik Tan Hag teams look like? Analysing his tactics and formations

At Ajax, his has implemented an attacking, aggressive and exciting football. He wants his teams to keep possession whilst deploying the wide players (both full backs and wingers) as the main source of attack. Rather like Pep Guardiola, his teams look to open up the pitch and penetrate lines by exploiting the sides of the pitch.

United are currently lacking in the winger department, with Jadon Sancho arguably being the only out-and-out winger the team possesses at the moment. Despite scoring last weekend, the Englishman has struggled for form this season: he has only managed three goals and two assists in the league.

It hasn’t helped that he’s often not played in his preferred position. Sancho, who cost united 73 million pounds, would likely welcome a change of manager who deploys a system with an emphasis on wide players.

Erik Ten Hag usually plays a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation. Whist in these systems the attacking threat comes from the wings, the midfield also helps out and are positioned quite high up the pitch in attack.

The three central midfield players all have their own unique role: the central midfield player, previously occupied by United outcast Donny van de Beek when he was Ajax, always maintains a higher position on the pitch in support of the attack.

The two remaining midfield players generally have more defensive responsibilities: the right sided midfielder operates in a box-to-box role helping out both in defence and attack, with the remaining midfielder tending to be more composed in possession and confident on the ball.

Each player knows his role inside out. With regards to the defence, the general requirement is that defenders need to be good on the ball, able to keep possession under pressure and capable of moving into midfield.

This season Rangnick has failed to find an effective system, evidenced by his recent experimentation with a 4-2-2-2 formation in the Manchester derby, with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes deployed as strikers. Evidently, it didnt work.

United are crying out for stability and an effective system in which players properly understand their roles. This is something that the Dutchman would very much bring to the table.

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Erik Ten Hag’s team is a tactically complete side, evidenced by their impressive performances on the pitch. The opposite can be said of United: The Theatre of Dreams has at times this season become nightmarish.

The club must act quickly and have a manager in place for when the season finishes, so the rebuild can commence as soon as possible. If the Dutchman was named manager, it remains to be seen if any of the current starting 11 would fit the bill for such a system.

Many suspect a large majority of the current squad would be moved on. Ironically the Dutchman Donny van de Beek, currently on loan at Everton, would likely be one of the first names on the team sheet. Things need to change at united, and fast.

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