FA Cup Could Be Do Or Die For Ten Hag’s Future At Manchester United

With the Premier League over, the FA Cup could salvage some pride for United and even give Ten Hag a chance to keep going at United next season.

Manchester United find themselves in a state of uncertainty despite ending the season with a victory over Brighton in the Premier League. The pressing question is whether Erik Ten Hag will remain at the helm, regardless of the outcome against Manchester City in the FA Cup final.

United have faced similar predicaments with previous managers like David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick, and now Ten Hag. Aside from Rangnick, who accurately assessed the club’s issues but wasn’t given time, and Mourinho, who secured two trophies, the rest have struggled to make a lasting impact.

Missing out on next season’s Champions League adds to the club’s woes. In their previous league encounter with Manchester City, United were thoroughly outclassed, losing 3-1 and trailing in every statistical category: shots on goal, passes, corners, possession, and passing accuracy.

Managerial Merry-go-round

Finding a suitable replacement for Ten Hag remains a daunting task. Elite managers like Tuchel or Nagelsmann seem unlikely or unsuitable candidates. While Abel Ferreira and Ruben Amorim are potential options, they are relatively unproven at this level. Other potential candidates include former United staff Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick, now managing Ipswich and Middlesbrough respectively, but neither possesses the pedigree required for the role at least for now.

Dissent within the dressing room exacerbates the situation, with several players reportedly overpowering managers. Resolving this issue is crucial, as it undermines any managerial authority. Key players like Rashford, Martial, Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, McTominay, and Antony may need to be moved on.

FA Cup Final – Last Throw Of Dice For Ten Hag?

Ten Hag’s struggles are partly due to his reliance on a pressing style that the current squad cannot execute effectively. Ten Hag’s success at Ajax was facilitated by a manageable squad and a robust youth development program and a club though popular not a giant like United, conditions are obviously different at United.

United’s financial mismanagement further compounds the problem. The club has spent heavily on poor signings and lacks the resources of clubs like City. Managers like Luis Enrique, who adapted Barcelona’s style post-Guardiola, might offer tactical flexibility but come with volatility.

The pressing game demands specific player types and is physically taxing, making squad assembly challenging. Ten Hag’s recruitment has not aligned well with these demands, leading to subpar performances. His reluctance to adopt a defensive formation suggests a denial of United’s limitations, a trait Mourinho, known for pragmatic approaches, did not share. Look at Real Madrid they play classical football minus press or counter press and all that, but play a football with grit, technique and culture that is built on success from the past each time and their past is as recent as two seasons ago with great success.

What Formation?

the Fa Cup Final Malaysian Time and Date.
The FA Cup final Malaysian time and date

In the FA Cup final against City, United would be wise to consider more conservative formations like 3-5-2 or 4-5-1. However, this could be seen as an admission of inferiority, clashing with the club’s traditional attacking ethos established by Sir Alex Ferguson.

The decline arguably began with Moyes, who deviated from the “United way.” Mourinho, despite not adhering to this philosophy, at least delivered trophies. The club now faces a dilemma: maintain attacking traditions and risk continued failure, or adopt a more pragmatic approach to maximize resources.

Potential managerial candidates like De Zerbi or Thomas Frank could be gambles, akin to Ten Hag. Frank, in particular, might succeed with the right support, possibly from a strong assistant like a former player. Gareth Southgate, with his experience working alongside technical director Dan Ashworth, is an intriguing option but lacks recent club management experience.

Ultimately, United’s priority must be a thorough squad overhaul. Without addressing the player issues, any managerial appointment is unlikely to succeed. This reconstruction is vital for the club’s long-term stability and success. – NMH

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Subendran A Ravindran
Subendran A. Ravindran is a sports consultant specialising in fitness, football and track & field. He is a licensed coach in all and former reporter for various journals writing mainly on geo-politics, aviation, business and football. He has a facebook site https://www.facebook.com/kldropfit/ that gives free tips on fitness.

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