Erik ten Hag’s brief is clear. Make Manchester United the force they were once again.
There will, of course, be a myriad of secondary objectives as well. Creating an attractive and exciting style of play, developing youngsters and promoting them to the first team, dramatically improving recruitment, changing the atmosphere around Old Trafford, etc. But what will really determine whether Ten Hag’s time at United is a success or not is whether the club become competitive again and start picking up some silverware.
This task is going to be incredibly difficult as it is and it is getting harder and harder thanks to Jurgen Klopp committing his future to Liverpool. Much more difficult.
ALSO READ: Manchester United Must Change Reputation To Follow Ralf Rangnick’s Erling Haaland Transfer Advice
United’s steady decline in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson called it a day has been global. The caliber of signings, decision-making on contracts, fan relations, the state of facilities at Old Trafford and Carrington, performance on the pitch. Virtually every aspect of the club has deteriorated over the past decade to an alarming degree. The only exception that proves the rule is that the academy always produces something of a treadmill of exciting talent.
The fact is that United have enough wealth to protect themselves from the worst consequences of their own incompetence. The fact that they can still mathematically qualify for the top four this season is mind-boggling, even if the odds of that happening are close to zero.
United are utterly abysmal in almost every way on the pitch. Almost every other Premier League team is best coached with a clear plan and players who fulfill said plan. The one thing that keeps United above them is that they have over a billion pounds of talent at their disposal. Even the worst super-heavyweight boxer imaginable would likely defeat the best flyweight simply because of his height advantage, not because of his skill or talent.
And United are that heavy tin can that has no finesse, trickery or technique to speak of, but just enough stopping power to land a knockout shot every now and then. When fighting even someone close to their own size, they often end up looking at the lights.
Normally, the financial safety net they have could mask the problems even better. Trophies could still be won as they were under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. But the last five years have seen United’s continued fall coincide with the unprecedented rise of Liverpool and Manchester City.
Unlike their arch-rivals, City and Liverpool have made just about every big decision – when it comes to results on the pitch – in recent seasons. The Blues built their club from the ground up to be the perfect place for Pep Guardiola to succeed and he did it with almost monotonous brilliance.
On Merseyside, Liverpool also couldn’t have suited their own manager better than Klopp. The German’s relentless and thrilling football and the deep bond he forms with supporters has gone hand in hand with a club in search of a saviour.
Klopp has been particularly transformative for Liverpool. Dragging them from almost men who weren’t guaranteed a top-four spot to make it into the top two teams in the world. He broke the Premier League title voodoo and could yet claim a historic four-fold, eclipsing United’s greatest achievement in the process.
The scariest thing is that it won’t end anytime soon. The only thing that stopped Liverpool from being a dominant force in the Premier League was the presence of their arch-rivals in City and Guardiola. But the Catalan’s current deal expires in 2023 and there is no clear indication yet that he will stay, having already been at the Etihad for far longer than he was at Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
ALSO READ: Cristiano Ronaldo Has Finally Ended The Lionel Messi Debate At Manchester United
Should Guardiola leave at the end of next season, Liverpool have ensured they are in the perfect place to capitalize on the expected fallout his departure will bring by securing Klopp’s future until 2026. best signing they could have made. Like Guardiola at City, Klopp will be impossible to replace, but as long as he is in charge the Reds will remain at the top.
This, of course, makes Ten Hag’s job so much more difficult. A lot of work needs to be done at United to make them competitive, but even if they had the perfect transfer window it probably wouldn’t be enough to rival the two established leaders. With Klopp in place for at least the next four seasons, the chances of United ending their league title drought will remain slim.
Ten Hag’s job of making United a lean fighter who can actually dance and weave as well as land an uppercut is hard enough, but Klopp’s continued presence means their expectation of having their arm raised for the win could get ugly. to expand.
We want your opinion, Reds. You can get even more involved with our Man United coverage by signing up. This will unlock a host of things – including joining the comments and taking part in our special Q&A, where you can speak directly to our reporters about what’s happening at Old Trafford this week and beyond.
Click here to start.
Sign up to our United newsletter to never miss an update from Old Trafford this season.