Growing up a Manchester United fan wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve done. As early as I can remember I was watching the Red Devils win match after match and seemingly trophy after trophy. As a young boy and United fan this was something I’ve now realised I took for granted, but dating back to the late 90’s and through the 2000’s that was all I really knew. On the inside, that was also the expectation and demand from everyone at the club. Success at all costs. The best part was always the bragging rights, going into school to rub it into whichever of my mates supported the team United had just beaten.
However, the day came that we all hoped wouldn’t. Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The man that had built a feared club with a reputation of winning silverware. The perfect way to bow out after a 26-year reign at Old Trafford: winning the Premier league. In his time at the club, Sir Alex had an admirable list of 38 trophies, including 13 league titles, five FA cups and two UEFA Champions Leagues. Sir Alex was knighted in the 1999 Queens Birthday Honours list for his services to the game. It’s safe to say that the Scotsman had left big boots to fill for the manager taking over.
David Moyes was the first of four managers that have attempted to steer the club back to the highs of Sir Alex’s helm; but along with Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he failed. One thing that has not gone well post-Ferguson is recruitment. The club has gone from having a team with a strong spine, with strong characters and leaders, to more or less having none. Multiple big name signings for huge transfer fees with few staying at the club long-term or making an impact. Does it not mean the same to play for the club now? Are the sky high wages allowing the players to get too comfortable or was Ferguson just that good?
Now many have scratched their heads, including myself, at why some of these teams haven’t been able to compete. On paper some of the sides have had the potential to go on and win trophies. Other than an FA cup with van Gaal in 2016 and a league cup and Europa League with Mourinho the following year, the poor results, coupled with a lack of effort and care at times, have become far too consistent. Players coming out with the same “we must do better” line week in week out, but with no apparent change in performance or attitude levels leaves us fans wondering, what is going on?
That’s the puzzle for Erik ten Hag to solve. The former Ajax boss will take over at Old Trafford having been the preferred option to Mauricio Pochettino. Fans will be hoping that ten Hag will bring his style of play and identity that saw success at Ajax; something United have desperately been missing. To do that, the new boss will need to invest in the right players whilst balancing out the squad with movement the other way.
The question that remains until the new 2022/23 season is underway: is Erik ten Hag the man to get Manchester United back to the glory days?