Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has had an important role in the team’s turnaround this season, with his handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo saga looking to have been key in improving the spirit in the squad.
It seems Ronaldo was not universally popular within the Man Utd squad, and Ten Hag’s stance on the Portugal international earned him plaudits, as has his ‘firm but fair’ approach to Marcus Rashford’s recent issue with missing a team meeting.
This is according to Ben Jacobs in the latest edition of his weekly Caught Offside columnwith the reporter praising the work of Ten Hag in building a better team spirit at United and turning a team with a losing mentality into one with a winning mentality.
Although the Ronaldo situation will have been challenging for the Dutch tactician, it seems it may have actually helped the new Red Devils manager stamp his authority at his new club.
“Erik ten Hag’s success is down to creating a stable group – his approach to his players is largely the same. He’s been able to get the team believing in his methods, and we’re seeing now, as results and performances improve since a poor start to the season, that there’s proof in the pudding,” Jacobs said.
“One thing that Ten Hag does well is stamp down his authority, and he had a lot of plaudits for the way he handled the Cristiano Ronaldo situation. But also, for example, with his punishment for Marcus Rashford after he overslept and missed a team meeting – there’s a firmness and a fairness about him, and he’s pushing the players to different extremes.
“Ronaldo was a divisive figure at Manchester United – clearly a great player in the club’s history, and certain players sided with him, whereas others felt he was too much of a distraction in that dressing room. And at his age, and in the form he was in, he was not really worthy of starting all those big games. So the way that was handled was a win for Ten Hag, and I think that’s helped him gain further trust.
“From Ronaldo’s perspective, he perhaps saw Ten Hag as a bit too much of a boot camp style manager – he makes the players run laps, there are a lot of strict drills on fitness and Ronaldo didn’t like that. Obviously there’s two sides to every story, but overall it’s having the desired effect and the players feel the manager will be firm but fair with them. It then becomes more of a team mentality as a result, and when you see the results going in the right direction, you start to want to fight for that manager.
“I think what Ten Hag’s done really well is he’s enshrined a winning mentality from a team that started the season with a losing mentality – we saw that in the Manchester Derby, yes the equalizer was contentious because Marcus Rashford influenced play, but they showed the mentality to come back from a goal down, and Rashford ended up scoring the winner, too. This is a very different Manchester United now – one that can fight back, and can win big matches like the Manchester Derby, having started the season being beaten handsomely by teams like Brighton and Brentford.
“Ten Hag’s got the best out of a player like Rashford because he’s put the time into developing him. Now he’s looking confident in front of goal, and away from the pitch a new contract perhaps looks more likely. At first it perhaps was n’t obvious what his role would be with Ronaldo still there, or how Ten Hag would settle in, so you could understand during the summer why perhaps his head was turned.
“He met Nasser Al-Khelaifi, even though his preference has always been to extend at Manchester United, and this shows he wasn’t settled. He is now, and PSG know it will be tough to prize him away from Old Trafford.”