Erik ten Hag ready to show the level of belief in the Manchester United locker room

January 13, 2023

Erik ten Hag was anticipating the worst when Manchester United faced Liverpool because Liverpool had won both teams’ previous meetings by an aggregate score of 9-0. This was after defeats to Brighton and Brentford at the beginning of the season.


Before that match in August, about 10,000 fans protested the Glazers’ ownership of the team. The visceral rage against the American family was carried into the stadium and redirected against the club’s fiercest rivals.


Old Trafford was electrified, and instead of the anticipated humiliating loss to Liverpool, the players rose to the challenge and delivered a performance that many regarded as unachievable, leading to United’s 2-1 victory.


Even though Liverpool made a last-ditch effort to score an equalizer in the dying seconds after Mohamed Salah cut the deficit in half in the 81st minute, the goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were enough to secure the three points.


The outcome was unexpected, especially in light of the Brentford disaster that had occurred only a week earlier. That evening, Ten Hag adopted a different strategy after using naive tactics in the first two games.


Ten Hag started Harry Maguire against Brentford and used Fred, Christian Eriksen, and Bruno Fernandes as his midfield three. The midfield needed more physicality and control, and Maguire needed help keeping up with Ivan Toney and the company’s pace.


For Liverpool, Raphael Varane and Scott McTominay, respectively, took the place of Maguire and Fred, but the approach, the style of play that Ten Hag desired for his team, had also been modified.


United switched to counterattacking strategies and was ruthlessly effective in transitions. Although Ten Hag preferred an ideal style of play for his team, it was necessary to score points at the time.


Despite a disastrous start that had left supporters wondering if anything had changed, the Reds defeated Southampton, Leicester, and Arsenal after that victory, and Ten Hag lifted the club’s spirits.


After that encouraging stretch, United faced a reality check against Manchester City. Still, there have been no other significant setbacks this season, and after attempting to play the style of football that Ten Hag prefers, United has gone seven games without a loss.


When asked about his preferred method of play after being hired, Ten Hag responded: “We want to play a proactive style of football, both on and off the ball. That is, attempting to do that must be our goal, and it is now, firstly, the coaches communicating to the team that we are proactive in every circumstance. We are courageous and willing to have the ball to give each other options.


“However, we’re also attempting to adopt the pressing style off the ball. It is just who I am. I want to energize my team, of course. However, I must admit that the players perform admirably. They’re utterly concentrated. They provide the energy for themselves.”


This season, Ten Hag’s philosophy has shown itself in glimmers that have become more consistent. The weekend match against reigning Premier League champions City will test this team’s development.


It will be interesting to see if Ten Hag switches to a counterattacking strategy, which hasn’t been used in months, even though City has yet to look its best this season. They still control the majority of the games they compete in.


The players will be confident going into the game, but how United approaches the Manchester derby will reveal where they stand in adhering to Ten Hag’s philosophy: will they play aggressive or passive football?

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