Ruthless Erik ten Hag makes his mark to elevate Man United vs. Liverpool

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

He will probably be relieved, after all, to get his first aggressive win since arriving from Ajax Amsterdam this summer season and delighted to have carried out it towards an archrival in a giant sport, one {that a} noticed giant group of Manchester United supporters protest the Glazers’ ownership.

As a substitute, Monday’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool additionally will probably be remembered — maybe simply as importantly — because the night time 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 thing for the arrogance 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 workforce choice that finally ends up having a far greater impression.

Ten Hag spent the summer season ruling with a quiet authority however picked his second to indicate his tooth. You may’t get way more ruthless than benching your star striker and membership captain (with Bruno Fernandes as a substitute sporting the armband) towards Liverpool at house.

“I’ve a squad, and we now have 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 workforce we are going to choose. I haven’t got to say Maguire and Ronaldo; they’re wonderful gamers, and they’re going to play a job sooner or later and the short-term future, as effectively.

“We have now a squad and a means of play, of fashion, but in addition a sport plan. You take a look at what’s one of the best method for the sport. We want a squad as a result of we now have many video games to cowl, so we make a workforce out of the squad, we stick collectively as a squad and we obtain lots. 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 powerful 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 facet.

Ten Hag resisted the temptation to single out these he felt have been most culpable, saying solely that he wished he might have made 11 substitutions at half-time. However when it got here to selecting his workforce towards Liverpool, he did not shrink back from the massive choices.

He might have disregarded 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 a substitute, he dropped Maguire, his captain. Already effectively conscious of the fixed noise round Ronaldo, the straightforward resolution would have been to maintain the 37-year-old within the workforce, 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, moderately than Ronaldo, who was despatched on in his place. Ronaldo ultimately got here on with solely 4 minutes left, however his introduction similtaneously 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 phases of the win.

Maguire, in the meantime, barely even warmed up and spent the night time 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 towards 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 careworn the significance of “management” on the pitch regardless of enjoying with out his captain and most skilled participant.

“I needed a special method and a special angle, and that’s what they introduced on the pitch,” Ten Hag added. “Be a workforce and have a superb spirit, and that’s what we noticed immediately. It isn’t all the time about what I stated. I stated we now have to behave and to not discuss lots and be sure to are a workforce and battle and be courageous and provides one another choices.

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

Ten Hag’s choices will do nothing to dampen the hypothesis round Ronaldo’s future, whereas there even have been studies of curiosity in Maguire from Chelsea. Ronaldo might discover his path again into the workforce additional sophisticated 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-about — 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 means round. United followers have believed for some time that there was a scarcity of accountability among the many gamers, that they’ve commonly been capable of flip in depressing performances over the previous 18 months with out seeing penalties when the workforce was introduced for the subsequent sport.

For now, a minimum of, the cycle has been damaged, and whereas Ten Hag has eased among 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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