Man United boss Erik Ten Hag has exorcised evil spirits at Old Trafford, now Red Devils are firing on all cylinders

Man United boss Erik Ten Hag has exorcised evil spirits at Old Trafford, now Red Devils are firing on all cylinders


Manchester United are very much starting to look like their old selves. After a decade of drift and decline, Erik ten Hag increasingly looks the perfect man to restore former strength.

While Premier League title talk is premature, United are certainly going about their business in a manner that speaks to renewal and revival. A top four finish is within their grasp.

Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth made it nine wins from their last 10 matches in all competitions and 23 points have now been taken from the last 30 available in the Premier League.

A defence that looked ragged at the beginning of the season has now kept four consecutive clean sheets. The forward line still looks a player or two light but is firing nonetheless. Ten Hag’s side are into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, where they play League One side Charlton next week, while this Friday sees them begin their FA Cup campaign against a beleaguered Everton.

A mouth-watering Europa League play-off with Barcelona stands on the horizon. The chances of Ten Hag delivering silverware in his first season increase with every passing game.

A January schedule that includes a derby with Manchester City – who thrashed them 6-3 in October – and a trip to leaders Arsenal suddenly doesn’t appear daunting at all. If United were to somehow extract maximum points from those two games, then who knows what might happen next.

Major credit must go to Ten Hag for the way he has stated to turn around United’s fortunes in his first six months in charge. He always acknowledged it would be a process of baby steps to rebuild the club following a dismal 10 years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

In his no-nonsense way, Ten Hag has restored standards at Old Trafford that had badly slipped under his predecessors, making clear that nobody, however famous, is above his plans. His handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo situation was exemplary and United are clearly all the stronger for the Portuguese star’s departure.

Having dropped Ronaldo early in the season, Ten Hag had the courage of his convictions to keep him on the bench despite all the histrionics. Clear the air talks were necessary after Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute and then stormed down the tunnel in the Tottenham game.

But when he gave his now infamous interview with Piers Morgan, United acted swiftly and decisively to mutually terminate his contract. Ferguson was always unflinching in his belief that no single player is ever bigger than the club, even if they are one of the world’s best. Ten Hag would concur.

It was evident early on that Ronaldo did not fit into Ten Hag’s plans and, although the circumstances of his exit were unforeseen, it has solved a major issue that was holding United back long-term.

Indeed, the Ronaldo drama seems to have had a galvanising effect on the rest of the United squad and they have returned from the World Cup break firing on all cylinders. On a much smaller scale, last weekend’s decision to drop Marcus Rashford after the striker overslept and was late for a team meeting was another example of Ten Hag exerting his authority.

It would not have been a good look if Rashford, who is in fine form, had kept his place after an infraction of the internal rules laid down. Determined to make amends, Rashford came off the bench at half-time against Wolves and scored the winning goal to keep United’s momentum going before giving a set of bashful interviews afterwards.

It’s also clear that Ten Hag has drawn a line under the matter and all parties have moved on. Even matters of discipline seem to be going the manager’s way right now. On several occasions this season, United have prevailed in games where in recent times they would have drawn or even lost.

This is especially true on their travels, with the 1-0 win at Molineux added to slender successes away to Southampton, Leicester, Everton and Fulham, plus a last-gasp equaliser at Chelsea.

United’s attack were often stumped when confronted with a packed defence but now they’re finding ways through.

  • A Daily Mail report
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