Erik ten Hag

The week’s events couldn’t have secured Erik ten Hag’s position at the club any more.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s pathetic shots aimed at his manager – either in an attempt to reinstate his authority, to ensure he never plays again or both – have not even pierced his turtleneck.

Ronaldo claimed multiple times that Manchester United fans are ‘always on his side’ but the only holdouts at this point are his hoards of Twitter freaks who follow the man rather than any club, certainly can’t be considered United supporters and whose opinions should not be taken into account.

The vast majority of match-going supporters began to take umbrage with Ronaldo after his outburst against Tottenham – if he’s leading by example then he must be commanding a troop of stroppy children – but like Ten Hag, they were willing to give him another chance after he had paid his dues. But now he has tarnished his legacy forever by putting himself above the club and trying to throw down an anchor when the ship is finally heading in the right direction.

Ten Hag has the backing of supporters and rightly so. He has handled the whole situation with a strong hand but, despite what Ronaldo may think, has repeatedly respected him even though that is clearly not reciprocated. The Dutchman is the fair but uncompromising disciplinarian United have been screaming for for years and the way in which he has dealt with Ronaldo may have earned him more plaudits than the steady improvements on the pitch.

His position is much more secure now than it was when he first arrived as a result. While fans were excited about the prospect of what Ten Hag would bring to the club, there were certainly some early concerns in the summer regarding his transfer policy. Much of that was also aimed at United for clearly not having a decent scouting network in place, but questions were being raised over the manager’s targets.

Ten Hag made it an early strategy to only go for players that he knew from his time at Ajax or was familiar with from Dutch football. That led to the signing of Feyenoord’s Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen who had trained with him at Ajax during his recovery and the duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony.

Casemiro was the exception that proved the rule but his arrival only came after months of chasing Frenkie de Jong, a midfielder with which his wish to have bordered on obsession. There were also the players United didn’t sign but did show interest in that sent shivers down spines, namely Marko Arnautovic.

Sergino Dest, Brian Brobbey and Jurien Timber were all targeted at some stage too and such a narrow spectrum of possible targets was worrying. Adrien Rabiot was a brief diversion but it was hardly a name that inspired much confidence.

Yet, for the most part, all of Ten Hag’s additions have been roaring successes. The jury is still out on Malacia who has struggled since his promising start and the best is yet to come for Antony but still, they have all had a positive impact. Antony, as well as Casemiro, Eriksen and Martinez, are all guaranteed starters and crucial cogs of the team Ten Hag is building.

Just how good they have been is reflected in United’s winners of the Player of the Month award. Martinez claimed it in August, September it was Eriksen and October Casemiro. Even November’s winner, the thrilling Alejandro Garnacho, looks good on Ten Hag.

Ralf Rangnick handed the Argentine starlet his debut but it’s Ten Hag who has fully incorporated him into the side and given him significant minutes. This month has seen Garnacho grab two goals and two assists in just four games, including the excellent late winner against Fulham. None of this would have happened if Ten Hag didn’t spot and utilise his talent.

All of United’s Player of the Month winners this season are only in the side because Ten Hag brought them in and it shows just how keen of an eye for a player he does have. The transfer strategy was concerning in the summer but it’s paying off now and the manager has earned the trust to do it again going forward.


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