After weeks of speculation, Manchester United finally confirmed on Thursday morning that current Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag will become their new manager in the summer.
In his five years at Ajax, Ten Hag has enjoyed great success. The 52-year-old has five trophies to his credit during his reign and he will be hopeful of signing off on his time with the Dutch giants by lifting a third Eredivisie title at the end of the season.
For most United fans right now, a Champions League semi-final appearance must seem a million miles away, especially after their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool on Tuesday night put a major dent in their hopes of qualifying for next season’s competition.
There can be no disputing that the Red Devils must undergo a rebuilding phase if they are to see a return to the trophy-laden glory days the club enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson.
There is clearly confidence around the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ that Ten Hag can be the man to mastermind that revival, but former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher has his doubts over whether the Dutchman can succeed.
Writing in his column for the Telegraph on Thursday, Carragher declared: “Erik ten Hag faces four major problems upon taking over at Manchester United. Their names are Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte.
“No matter how good Ten Hag is or proves to be at Old Trafford, he must take on and beat the best coaches in the world. That is tough enough without having to start afresh with a squad overhaul.
“For all the excitement at another United rebuild, the reality is none of those currently occupying the top four would swap their coach for Ten Hag,” he argued per the Daily Mail.
United last won the Premier League title in 2013 – Ferguson’s last season in charge at Old Trafford – and Carragher pointed to the failures of those who have managed the club since as evidence that the club has become ‘a graveyard’ for both managers and players over the last decade.
“[Ten Hag] must reverse another worrying United trend. The club has become a graveyard for managers and players. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, no-one has gone there and improved their reputation.
“He must overcome a weight of history which some of the most accomplished coaches of this and previous generations have found unbearable. The United job chews up coaches in a way it does not at their European and domestic rivals,” warned Carragher.
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A period of wholesale changes is a virtual certainty once Ten Hag arrives in Manchester this summer, with a busy transfer window expected.
“Ten Hag needs to undergo a squad revamp upon arrival at United this summer, stated Carragher. “Out-of-contract stars Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata look certain to be on their way out, while a number of other underperforming players may need to be offloaded.
“Midfield appears the position most in need of strengthening, as Pogba’s departure will leave the incoming boss with Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic as his only deeper-lying options.”
Recruiting new faces in the centre of the pitch, though, will be no easy task according to Carragher, who believes that players could well be wary of joining United.
Two names frequently linked with a move to Old Trafford over the last year have been England internationals Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.
Pointing out United’s questionable track record when it comes to developing young English talent in recent times, Carragher admitted he would ‘run a mile’ if he were Rice or Bellingham and United showed interest.
“It is hard to think of any United purchase of the last nine years who has improved since arriving at Old Trafford. Even those who made an encouraging start have gone backwards,” he continued.
“When Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jadon Sancho joined United, there was a sense the club was going in the right direction with young English talent. Now they look terrified to play at Old Trafford.
“If I was Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham observing their England team-mates’ troubles – unless my motivation was a big payday – I would run a mile if United called.”
Can Ten Hag win the Premier League with Man Utd? (Via the Football Terrace)
The Ten Hag era at United will officially begin in a few months, but the new boss will surely already be feeling the weight of expectation from fans around the world. It remains to be seen if he can live up to those expectations over the next three years.