Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has revealed the deep-seated rot and blunders that plagued Manchester United as he arrived as the club’s new manager.
The former Ajax manager pointed out the challenges that confronted the club as he took charge from German tactician Ralf Rangnick.
From a chaotic dressing room, a slew of average players, transfer policy blunders, Manchester United teetered on the brink of total collapsed, according to Ten Hag.
The 54-year-old said Manchester United needed to make big changes to turn the fortunes of the club around.
Manchester United struggled in the Premier League last season. They finished sixth on the table, missing out of the Champions League spot with 13 points gap.
The new manager had an enormous task of a rebuild in his hands after taking over as the new manager of the club.
Erik Ten Hag revealed that he quickly identified the issues that he was faced with, from a dressing room in disarray to a number of average players in the team that were lacking fighting spirit.
According to him, Manchester United players did not have the fear factor and that explained the team’s poor performance last season.
“‘Manchester United didn’t exactly have the fear factor last season,” he said.
Erik Ten Hag added the team lacked the drive, zeal, and spirit to push through games and get results. Most importantly, the mentality of the team was extremely low and he witnessed it in the very first week in-charge of the club.
He marveled at how Manchester United rose to the summit of the game with such a culture that was prevalent in the dressing room among the players.
‘There was no spirit’, the Dutch tactician said. ‘I saw no team dynamic in the squad. The mental resilience was very low. I saw that as an outsider – and also noticed it in my first weeks at the club.
‘I looked at the culture of the club. I asked how did Manchester United become great?’
While the players played a critical role in Manchester United’s downfall, Erik Ten Hag also shifted the blame to policy blunders by the club, especially their transfer policies.
He maintained Manchester United acquired an astonishing number of players that are below average and add less to the team.
‘The club has bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who have not been good enough’, he said.
‘Most purchases have been average – and at United average is not good enough. United’s shirt weighs heavily.’
How he arrested the rot in the team
After opening up the secret of the team’s struggles in recent years, Erik Ten Hag explained how he arrested the situation and brought the club to par with other big clubs in the Premier League.
Recall the former Ajax boss, set out to bring in fresh legs into the Manchester United squad. After his prime target, Frenkie de Jong rejected a move to the Premier League, he went for former Real Madrid and Brazil international Casemiro to hold the Red Devils’ midfield.
He also brought in Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord to handle the left-back position, including Lisandro Martinez from Ajax for the center-back role. Another Ajax star Antony was also signed to add enough momentum to the club’s attack.
Christian Eriksen also joined as a free agent and has played a critical role in the club’s resurgence sometimes playing as a false nine.
Ten Hag has admitted that he deliberately targeted players with big personalities, and wanted individuals who were willing to fight for results on the pitch.
‘Only real personalities, who can perform under great pressure, can play here,’ Ten Hag insisted.
‘We needed personalities. That’s why the acquisition of Casemiro was so important. Along with Raphael Varane, we now have a second player who has experience of winning titles.
‘Malacia, Martinez, Casemiro, Antony are all fighters, while Christian Eriksen is a technical winner and a great personality. We want the best of the best. Any players we bring to Manchester United must meet the highest standard.’
After a disappointing first two matches in the Premier League, Erik Ten Hag’s successes at the club is obvious.
Manchester United are currently in the top four and is pushing hard for Champions League football next season.
They qualified for the quarterfinal of the Carabao Cup, and have proceeded to the next round of the FA Cup after knocking out Everton.
The team is also through to the playoffs of the Europa League after finishing second in the group stages.