Erik ten Hag has come under heavy scrutiny following Manchester United’s abysmal start to the 2023/24 season.
Back-to-back 1-0 victories over Fulham and Luton Town on the eve of November’s international break have softened the blow of an embarrassing 3-0 defeat in the Manchester derby.
However, the Dutchman has yet to get off the hook despite moving the Red Devils within five points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur amid the club’s worst start in the Premier League era.
Suffering a humiliating 3-0 home loss to Newcastle United in the League Cup has added to Ten Hag’s woes, while United’s bid to make it out of the Champions League group stage is also in doubt.
All that paints a bleak picture for the former Ajax manager.
Putting the blame on a manager whenever a team is having a rough time is one of the most common cliches in football.
Man United fans can be forgiven for running out of patience after the team’s notorious fall from grace in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure a decade ago.
However, the Old Trafford faithful’s anger seems misdirected. In truth, the 53-year-old has had a lot on his plate.
Instead of pointing fingers, it’s better to stop for a moment and consider that ten Hag has amassed more points in his first 50 Premier League games in charge than Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta.
While Liverpool fans worship Klopp and Arsenal supporters see Arteta as a Messiah to end their long-standing misery, everyone is blaming the Dutch tactician for United’s struggles.
Outperforming two such characters isn’t a minor achievement.
For those people with short memories, when he replaced Ralf Rangnick in 2022, the Red Devils were up the creek without a paddle, miles away from the top four, let alone the title race.
In his first season at the Theatre of Dreams, he brought the team back to Europe’s top table and halted a six-year title drought by lifting the League Cup trophy.
Although it’s true that the club remains cut off from Premier League title conversations this season, Ten Hag has had to deal with spoiled brats in the form of Antony and Jadon Sancho.
And then, there’s Marcus Rashford. His formidable form in 2022/23 was the main ingredient behind Man Utd’s Champions League return.
By contrast, he has faltered badly this term. Sometimes it’s more reasonable to let others take the wheel when things don’t go your way.
For no sound reason, Rashford insists on doing everything on his own, even though his selfishness and self-centred attitude do more harm than good.
One of the worst injury crises in the club’s recent history doesn’t help either, not to mention the Glazers’ constant interference in his job and their reluctance to let the manager conduct business in the summer.
The owners’ insistence on doing ‘what they think is best for Man Utd’ led to a disappointing transfer window, which now comes back to haunt ten Hag above all others.
Maybe we should cut him some slack here?