It’s nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson signed off at Manchester United with the Premier League title and the club’s hierarchy are desperate for new boss Erik ten Hag to reverse the decline at Old Trafford.
It was billed for weeks as a straight shootout between Ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino – but now the Dutchman has been installed, what do fans think of his appointment?
BBC Sport caught up with Sam Peoples, founder of YouTube channel United Peoples TV and The Peoples Person website, lifelong United fan Natalie Burrell, Alex Turk from Stretford Paddock and editor of Stretty News Dale O’Donnell to find out…
Was Ten Hag your first choice?
Sam: Absolutely. Before we appointed [Ralf] Rangnick, I said the dream scenario was him short-term and then Ten Hag as full-time manager. I’m not used to the club making smart decisions so am still scratching my head, but it’s about time we got someone whose best years are ahead of him. He will be the first boss since Sir Alex Ferguson that other clubs will be genuinely fearful of.
Natalie: We’ve had the big-name managers – Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, even Rangnick – but this feels different. Ten Hag wants to build foundations. He recognises it won’t change in one season, it’ll take time. Look at Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp – they’ve built and brought in players to fit their system. Ten Hag has a clear philosophy and will play the way he wants.
Alex: I tweeted in the latter stages of Solskjaer’s reign that I wanted Rangnick to replace him before heading upstairs and Ten Hag to arrive in the summer. It’s fair to say I’m delighted with how United’s set-up will look.
Dale: It was always Mauricio Pochettino or Ten Hag and I see the argument on both sides. Looking now, United have gone with the manager on an upward trajectory.
What’s first in his in-tray?
Sam: Ripping up the culture of entitlement among the current crop of players. They have to remember what hard work is and that they can’t take anything for granted under a manager who demands perfection and commitment. I can’t wait.
Natalie: He needs to clear out egos. If there are players who don’t want to play his way, then he must show them the door. The players have had their own way for too long and thrown managers under the bus. Ten Hag must come in, be firm and stick to his principles.
Alex: It’s simple. He will be heavily backed, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see three times as many outs than ins. There are plenty of players, on top of the five leaving on free transfers, that he will want to ditch. And the club must let him if this “rebuild” is going to work.
Dale: Ten Hag has a lot to do and I really don’t know where to start. Maybe with the fact United concede far too many goals and a defence that is frail without a defensive midfielder. Sadly, he may need sports science to develop before United can clone Roy Keane into the modern game.
What are your expectations of a United side under Ten Hag?
Sam: We’ve lacked identity for nearly a decade. Previously, it was winning, but when that disappeared so did United’s confidence. I expect identity to be embedded bit by bit – to progressively get better until it becomes second nature. And it will be great to watch a team you can identify as United no matter who is on the pitch.
Natalie: It’ll be back to basics – hard work, determination – then on to quick build-up play and urgency. He’s good with youth and that’s what Manchester United are about. You saw what he did with young players at Ajax. Academy players will be excited, thinking they’ll get their chance.
Alex: Fans have to understand things aren’t going to switch immediately. But United under Ten Hag should be a flexible 4-2-3-1, with versatile players, a possession-based, yet direct style of play and counter-pressing off the ball. With the current crop, you can see why it’ll take time.
Dale: I expect United will ultimately have a clear sense of identity, but it’s important we take a year or two to build with Ten Hag before expecting the world. I can’t see United winning the league for at least three years.
What would success look like next season?
Sam: Next season is time to refurbish – toss out old furniture, bring in new pieces, build a couple from within and freshen everywhere with a new lick of paint after years of neglect. Success next season isn’t silverware, it is about laying the first foundations towards the ultimate goal of winning the Premier League within the next five seasons. It’s time for realistic expectations so we can follow a long-term plan that builds every season.
Natalie: All the pressure is on the owners rather than Ten Hag. People are so fed up – they just want to see growth and young players developing. It would be great to get a trophy so if we finish fifth and win a cup I’d take that. With us possibly not even reaching Europe this season, qualifying for it would be nice.
Alex: Expectations should be low. A prolonged run in the two domestic cup competitions and a top-four finish would be a great start. If United are in the Europa League, given Ten Hag’s experience in that competition, it could be the trophy to target.
Dale: We need to win a cup – whether it’s the FA Cup, League Cup or whatever else we get thrown into. Five years without a trophy is too long for this club.
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