Ruthless Erik ten Hag makes his mark to carry Man United over Liverpool

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MANCHESTER, England — If issues work out for Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, he might properly look again on Liverpool‘s go to to Previous Trafford early in his first season as one thing of a pivotal second.

He shall be relieved, in fact, to get his first aggressive win since arriving from Ajax Amsterdam this summer time and delighted to have achieved it in opposition to an archrival in a giant sport, one {that a} noticed massive group of Manchester United supporters protest the Glazers’ ownership.

As an alternative, Monday’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool additionally shall be remembered — maybe simply as importantly — because the evening the Dutch supervisor put his stamp on the squad.

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In dropping Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire for arguably the most important sport of the season, Ten Hag gave discover to his gamers that he’s in cost. After a demoralising begin that briefly noticed United fall to the underside of the Premier League desk, victory over Liverpool will do every little thing for the boldness and self-belief in a dressing room that checked out all-time low following the 4-0 defeat to Brentford 9 days earlier. But it surely may very well be the staff choice that finally ends up having a far greater influence.

Ten Hag spent the summer time ruling with a quiet authority however picked his second to point out his tooth. You’ll be able to’t get rather more ruthless than benching your star striker and membership captain (with Bruno Fernandes as a substitute sporting the armband) in opposition to Liverpool at house.

“I’ve a squad, and we’ve to make use of the squad,” Ten Hag stated afterward. “We play 50 or 60 video games, and from sport to sport, we are going to see what staff we are going to decide. I haven’t got to say Maguire and Ronaldo; they’re wonderful gamers, and they’ll play a task sooner or later and the short-term future, as properly.

“We now have a squad and a method of play, of favor, but additionally a sport plan. You take a look at what’s the perfect strategy for the sport. We’d like a squad as a result of we’ve many video games to cowl, so we make a staff out of the squad, we stick collectively as a squad and we obtain quite a bit. I am assured about that.”

It’s comprehensible that Ten Hag would need to play down the importance of benching two of his highest-profile gamers for such a key sport, however he’ll know higher than anybody that it sends a robust message to his squad very early in his reign. He made his emotions clear after the defeat at Brentford, accusing his gamers of a scarcity of “starvation” and cancelling a deliberate day without work so they may make up the space by which they’d been outrun by Thomas Frank’s aspect.

Ten Hag resisted the temptation to single out these he felt had been most culpable, saying solely that he wished he may have made 11 substitutions at half-time. However when it got here to choosing his staff in opposition to Liverpool, he did not draw back from the massive selections.

He may have not noted Lisandro Martinez — changed after 45 minutes at Brentford — pushed the Argentine defender into midfield, or switched to a again 5 with three centre-backs. As an alternative, he dropped Maguire, his captain. Already properly conscious of the fixed noise round Ronaldo, the simple resolution would have been to maintain the 37-year-old within the staff, however as a substitute, he was handed a seat on the bench behind Maguire.

It was telling too that when Anthony Elanga was substituted at half-time, it was Anthony Martial, quite than Ronaldo, who was despatched on in his place. Ronaldo ultimately got here on with solely 4 minutes left, however his introduction concurrently that of Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was little greater than an afterthought as Ten Hag tried to see out the ultimate levels of the win.

Maguire, in the meantime, barely even warmed up and spent the evening watching from the sidelines. He’s unlikely to get again in for the journey to Southampton on Saturday, after Martinez and Raphael Varane defended with such resilience in opposition to Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Luis Diaz.

Ronaldo will not expect a recall at St Mary’s, both, after contributing one shot towards purpose that sailed into the Stretford Finish. It felt pointed too that afterward Ten Hag pressured the significance of “management” on the pitch regardless of taking part in with out his captain and most skilled participant.

“I needed a distinct strategy and a distinct angle, and that’s what they introduced on the pitch,” Ten Hag added. “Be a staff and have a superb spirit, and that’s what we noticed as we speak. It isn’t all the time about what I stated. I stated we’ve to behave and to not speak quite a bit and be sure you are a staff and battle and be courageous and provides one another choices.

“Fernandes took the accountability, and the captaincy inspired him. He confirmed management with Varane. They made an enormous distinction. It isn’t simply them; we want extra leaders. Whenever you need to win, you want leaders and the spirit we confirmed as we speak.”

Ten Hag’s selections will do nothing to dampen the hypothesis round Ronaldo’s future, whereas there even have been reviews of curiosity in Maguire from Chelsea. Ronaldo may discover his path again into the staff additional difficult if United are profitable of their efforts to signal a winger — Ajax’s Antony, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic or PSV’s Cody Gakpo amongst these reportedly thought of — earlier than the switch deadline, though Ten Hag maintains the Portugal ahead stays a part of his plans.

Whether or not Ronaldo desires to be a part of these plans stays up for debate, but when nothing else, Ten Hag has proven that it is Ronaldo who should adapt to his supervisor and never the opposite method round. United followers have believed for some time that there was a scarcity of accountability among the many gamers, that they’ve frequently been in a position to flip in depressing performances over the previous 18 months with out seeing penalties when the staff was introduced for the following sport.

For now, at the least, the cycle has been damaged, and whereas Ten Hag has eased a number of the strain on himself, he additionally has made certain his gamers are reminded there’s loads of strain on their locations.

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