If the Dutchman hadn’t swapped jobs in the summertime, he would have spent Wednesday making ready Ajax for his or her Champions League opener in opposition to Rangers in Amsterdam moderately than sat in a information convention at Carrington speaking about Europe’s second-tier membership competitors. His important intention for his debut marketing campaign at Old Trafford is to plot his manner again into the Champions League, adopted carefully by ending the membership’s five-year anticipate silverware.
Reach, after which win, the Europa League closing in Budapest in May — simpler mentioned than carried out with groups like Arsenal and Roma additionally within the draw — and Ten Hag will finish his first season together with his two main targets ticked off and his place nicely and really safe. Man United insist that their appointment of the 52-year-old is a long-term one however no supervisor since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 has survived after lacking out on the Champions League following a full season in cost.
Initially, Ten Hag’s focus will likely be on ending as excessive up the Premier League desk as doable, however he’ll know that the prize on the finish of the Europa League — a trophy and an automated place in subsequent season’s Champions League group stage as a prime seed — is just too good a chance to throw away. “We should win each recreation, and we need to win each match, so we’ve to take all the things significantly,” he mentioned on Wednesday. “That is the mentality that Manchester United wants. Europe is at all times one thing particular and you do not know your opponents that nicely.”
After a disastrous start to the season with defeats to Brighton and Brentford, United have constructed some momentum with 4 wins in a row. It’s been carried out with a settled crew, too — Ten Hag has made only one change throughout the matches in opposition to Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester and Arsenal — however there’s more likely to be loads of rotation for Real Sociedad‘s go to to Old Trafford on Thursday.
Ten Hag has constructed a deeper squad after spending greater than £225m throughout the switch window and the early video games within the Europa League supply the possibility to offer gamers some much-needed time on the pitch. “We not solely have a crew, we’ve a squad,” mentioned Ten Hag, who will likely be with out Anthony Martial as he continues his restoration from an Achilles damage. “When a crew is appearing nicely, when gamers are appearing nicely, I feel we’ve greater than 11 beginning XI gamers.”
“The crew is enhancing, it is getting higher, however then again, for gamers who are usually not now within the crew, we all know they’ll, at any second, are available and they’ll do the job. And they’ll possibly even do it higher than the gamers who’re in however you will by no means know. I do know that you just want greater than 11 gamers to achieve success.”
The inference is that, for now a minimum of, the Europa League is the place to make adjustments, although Ten Hag’s priorities might nicely have flipped by the point the run-in begins. Jose Mourinho did not need to play within the Europa League both when he took the United job in 2016 and for his first group recreation in opposition to Feyenoord he made eight adjustments to his crew. But by the tip of that season, with United falling behind within the race for the highest 4, Mourinho was purposely resting gamers within the Premier League to maintain them recent for Europe. United received simply considered one of their final six league video games and completed sixth, however crucially, they lifted the Europa League trophy after beating Ajax 2-0 within the closing to make sure a return to the Champions League.
Rob Dawson feels Antony signing for Manchester United exhibits the membership are backing Erik ten Hag.
For Ten Hag, simply because it was for Mourinho, the Europa League is a method to an finish. He will gladly see the again of it after this season, however for eight months it is too vital to disregard.
A resurgence in kind — notably eye-catching wins over Liverpool and Arsenal — have given followers hope that this might be the beginning of a brand new period of success however nobody is realistically anticipating his crew to mount a critical title problem this 12 months. But earlier than all that, Ten Hag has to get United again into the Champions League as rapidly as doable. If it is carried out by successful the Europa League, then his first season will likely be thought of successful no matter the place they end within the Premier League.