Is time up for Ten Hag after Man Utd implosion?

AFP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

Erik ten Hag insists he is the man to revive embattled Manchester United after they hit a new low against Crystal Palace. But will he even be there for the FA Cup final?

Erik ten Hag
Manchester United s head coach Erik ten Hag waits for the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park stadium in London, England, Monday, May 6, 2024. AP


Monday's embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Selhurst Park left the team languishing in eighth place in the Premier League and increasingly unlikely to qualify for Europe next season.

The bare statistics make grim reading for United fans and show how far the 20-time English champions have fallen since they dominated under Alex Ferguson more than a decade ago.

The team have now lost 13 games for the first time in the Premier League era and have conceded 81 goals in all competitions -- the highest number in a single campaign since 1976/77.

United have only failed once to qualify for European competition since the 1989/90 season but with Newcastle and Chelsea finding form in the league, they may have to beat Manchester City at Wembley later to find a route to continental football.

The embattled Ten Hag is adamant he "absolutely" remains the right man to restore the club's fortunes as new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe steps up his revamp of the club's leadership structure off the pitch.

"If the right players are there, available, we have a good squad, but we miss almost the whole back line and then we have problems," he told Sky Sports after the defeat at Palace.

"It is very disappointing. Under-performing. Definitely the worst defeat. We should have done better.

"We are aware, as a team performance, we were not correct, making big mistakes and not following the plan and the script and the rules we have."

But former Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen believes Ten Hag is out of time and that the club need to pull the trigger now, even before the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 25.

"I just wonder, with so much at stake, even though it's only for four games, I wonder whether the board might just have to try to do something here and now and be quite radical about it," he told Premier League Productions.

"But he cannot, simply cannot, manage this team next season. He's just not good enough."

Final nail in the coffin

United midfield great Paul Scholes, who won multiple trophies under Ferguson, said the match "felt like the final nail in the coffin" for Ten Hag.

The Dutchman, who won the League Cup and finished third in the Premier League in his first season in charge, pleads mitigating factors, including a punishing injury list.

The 54-year-old has been unable to sign some of the players he wanted most since he arrived at Old Trafford in 2022, including Harry Kane and Frenkie de Jong.

But many of those who have joined on his watch have flopped badly in his second season in charge.

Brazil international Casemiro appears to be a fading force while winger Antony, who joined in 2022 in an £85 million ($107 million) deal, has just one goal and one assist in the Premier League this season.

Former United first-team coach Rene Meulensteen, who worked under Ferguson at Old Trafford, said the blame must be shared.

"It is not just the players, everyone is accountable," he told the BBC. "Ten Hag is responsible for bringing a lot of those players, he's responsible for the system of play and the preparation.

"The players then have to respond to that but clearly somewhere it is disjointed.

"And he (Ten Hag) says after the game that they didn't follow their rules, and there's two reasons why that happens -- either they don't want to or they can't, because they don't have that quality. So yeah, it is a tough situation."

Two years ago, interim manager Ralf Rangnick said the club needed "open heart surgery" after years of under-achievement.

Ratcliffe has not wasted any time in reshaping the club's structure as he tries to lay the groundwork for a United resurgence.

But now the INEOS boss faces his biggest decision so far.

Does he stick with Ten Hag and accept a potentially humiliating end to the season or cut his losses now and deprive Ten Hag of a day out at Wembley?

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