ten Hag coy on if Ronaldo will keep Man Utd starting spot
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Erik ten Hag has wasted no time in making it clear that there’s a new sheriff in town at Manchester United, pouring cold water over doubts about his ability to control the worldwide circus he inherited. And Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has compared his impressive persona to Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson – no small praise.
Ten Hag arrived at United with an array of issues to solve, none more so than Cristiano Ronaldo, the most popular sportsman in history, trying to engineer a transfer away from Old Trafford. He also had to solve the small matter of club captain Harry Maguire becoming a social media jester during a poor 2021/22 campaign, leading to a media storm over whether he would lose the armband.
Months on, Ten Hag has received plaudits for dealing with Ronaldo’s discontent and behaviour as he aims to reset the culture and raise standards in the United dressing room. And he also hasn’t been afraid to take Maguire out of the limelight, keeping him as captain but handing him a reserved role. The ex-Ajax boss has proven he will treat any player the same for the benefit of his team.
After a sticky start to the campaign, his man management and refreshing tactical approach are already reaping the rewards. United are unbeaten in nine games, winning seven and only conceding three goals from open play, and are lurking just six points behind Premier League title favourites Manchester City.
Speaking exclusively to Express Sport, with Grosvenor Casinos, Hasselbaink dismissed United as title challengers this season, insisting Ten Hag needs more time to rebuild. However, the Dutchman mirroring Mourinho and Ferguson in stamping his authority on his squad has made Hasselbaink confident he’s the man for the job.
He said: “I think it’s too soon [for United to be title challengers]. I think [Ten Hag] will get it right [but] I think he will need a few more transfer windows. He’s got a clear idea of how he wants to play and what I do like is it is his way, and it doesn’t matter who you are, but you follow, or you’re out. All big managers had that – Ferguson had that, Mourinho had that. It’s their way.
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“They’re more solid at the back, even though I don’t think they are the finished article yet. What they really do well is they work really hard at the front to stop having to defend a lot at the back. I still think that in the midfield, they need to do a lot. They need a big striker or a striker that doesn’t need to be big but somebody that is going to be scoring 20-plus goals.
“But they’re going in the right direction. They’re going in the right direction. They are playing quite attractive football, or they’re trying. They’re controlling the ball a lot more than in previous years – [that’s] what they couldn’t do. Yeah, they didn’t do that. And they’re doing that more, but they’re still far off from challenging Man City.”
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