Manchester United have flattered to deceive on the pitch since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his illustrious career in the dugout in 2013. Since that fateful day, the Red Devils have failed to launch a realistic Premier League title bid and have endured a series of struggles year after year. But that could now be about to change after Erik ten Hag copied a Mikel Arteta masterstroke.
The Red Devils appointed Ten Hag earlier this year as he was left to pick up the pieces from a disastrous season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his interim successor Ralf Rangnick. Ten Hag lost his first two Premier League matches against Brighton and Brentford but has since helped his team turn their season around and climb to fifth.
After Ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford, there was plenty of attention on him over how he would react to Cristiano Ronaldo. At the age of 37, the Portugal striker had become a waning force and reportedly tried to secure a move away from Old Trafford after missing the team’s summer tour.
Ten Hag gave Ronaldo his chance by starting him in United’s second match against the Bees, despite the fact the player was lacking match fitness. But the Dutchman clearly became frustrated by the blockbuster star and handed him just three more top-flight stars ahead of the break for the World Cup.
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Arteta’s masterstroke clearly sent a message to Arsenal players about the standards he was looking for at the club. And it has had quite the impact in north London as the Gunners have stormed to the top of the Premier League table this season after winning 12 of their 14 matches before the break for the World Cup.
Ten Hag’s dealings with Ronaldo could be the masterstroke United were looking for and when the team return to Premier League action against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, the Dutchman could have a group of players who know where the line is and are ready to fight for each other. And that will stand the club in good stead for the second half of the season and beyond.
The Red Devils need to fight for trophies this season and secure a top-four finish. And if they can taste some sort of success come May, they could put themselves in the frame to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League titles next season. A major trophy would completely transform the club’s fortunes. And that level of success would indicate that United’s glory days might not necessarily be behind them.