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Erik ten Hag is correcting Manchester United’s mistakes with latest decisions

Erik ten Hag is correcting Manchester United's mistakes with latest decisions

Erik ten Hag is correcting Manchester United’s mistakes with latest decisions

On the plane bound for New York, Bruno Fernandes sat in the front row of the Manchester United players’ section. A couple of rows behind Fernandes, Harry Maguire was sat by the window, once accustomed to leading from the front.

Fernandes had not yet been officially informed he would become United’s official captain. Only three days earlier, Maguire was bluntly told he would no longer have the armband strapped to his bicep.

Appointing Maguire as captain, sanctioning a new contract for Eric Bailly, re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo… The list of mistakes made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goes on and Erik ten Hag continues to right the wrongs.

Consider Solskjaer’s dismal hit rate in the transfer market: Alex Telles is gone, Donny van de Beek is going and so is Maguire. Ten Hag’s patience with Jadon Sancho has snapped and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was dropped last week.

A good coach can handle a hospital pass. Ten Hag has revived Wan-Bissaka’s career and he was having an impressive calendar year prior to a regressive pre-season. Sancho has shown reasonable promise doubling as a centre forward in the absence of Anthony Martial.

Martial – there’s another mistake. Martial had no qualms about accepting a pay hike with Solskjaer as the substitute teacher in January 2019. United are now in an invidious position with their crock monsieur: they cannot play him and they cannot sell him.

Ten Hag still got a tune out of Martial during pre-season last year and in his handful of appearances before another new injury in the new year. Now Martial is on trial to avoid being released in June as United mull over whether to extend his contract.

Scott McTominay, a starter for Solskjaer, is now a squad player, United’s defence has been rebranded with a Latino flavour and Ten Hag had the courage to inform David de Gea he could clear out his locker two years after Solskjaer had intended to. He fudged it.

These are not ruthless calls by Ten Hag. Maguire was good enough for an unsuccessful United side but is not good enough for a successful United side. He was rumbled with expectations raised for the 2021-22 campaign and his club form has never recovered.

One of the last nails in Maguire’s coffin was against Sevilla. Across the two legs, United were 2-0 up without Maguire on the pitch. With him, they were trounced 5-0.

Maguire was unnerved by the hostility back at Leicester in October 2021 and he was culpable for all four of his former side’s goals. That sparked the spiral and five weeks later Solskjaer shed tears as he filmed his exit interview at Carrington.

It is not Maguire’s fault he can come across as an inauthentic leader. He has been media trained to within an inch of his life and his comments during post-match inquisitions were anathema to United supporters accustomed to raw soundbites. Roy Keane described Maguire as “a robot”.

Then there is Luke Shaw, who received no media training at Southampton. Shaw chimes with United supporters and is a compelling talker, whatever the result. It is Maguire’s misfortune the only other teammate who is arguably a better orator than Shaw is Fernandes.

Shaw also nudged Maguire towards the exit with his excellence at centre half. Maguire may rue the ‘desert flu’ he contracted after the World Cup which prevented him from starting in United’s first fixtures when the season resumed. Shaw was such an accomplished auxiliary option he remained at centre half to neuter Erling Haaland at Old Trafford in January.

Marcus Rashford, resentful of Solskjaer’s mismanagement and disenchanted, embarked on a career-best season under Ten Hag, Diogo Dalot has played his best football for the club, defying Solskjaer’s attempts to offload him while Fernandes and Raphael Varane, the two soundest professionals recruited on Solskjaer’s watch, have driven mentalities that Ten Hag was bound to welcome.

Fernandes posted greater numbers in previous campaigns but his performance level and consistency in 2022-23 was his best for United as he assumed the added responsibility of the captaincy whilst adding strings to his bow, playing effectively in different roles.

Empowering Fernandes has improved the dressing room harmony. The power struggle between Ronaldo and Maguire was expertly rendered moot when both were dropped for the uproarious defeat of Liverpool last August. Fernandes transcends nationalities at United as a skilled English, Spanish and French speaker, as well as his native Portuguese.

Ten Hag has made the odd misstep. Wout Weghorst was a worse loanee than Odion Ighalo, the three-match run for Van de Beek in November bordered on nepotism and Jonny Evans’ return is more in keeping with Solskjaer’s sentimentalism. Solskjaer actually said in 2021: “Jonny Evans should have been a Manchester United player now, of course.”

Maybe he would have been a more suitable signing from Leicester.

Source: Manchestereveningnews

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