Football Manager 2022: Simulating Erik Ten Hag's first season at Manchester United

New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag on the touchline

Erik Ten Hag has joined Manchester United as the club’s new manager, replacing Ralf Rangnick, so we’ve put him in the hotseat on Football Manager 2022 to see how he’s going to perform.

The Dutchman has arrived from Ajax and will be out to right a few wrongs at Old Trafford after their dismal run under the caretaker boss.

United ultimately finished the season in sixth place, 13 points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, and 35 points behind champions Manchester City.

It was a truly dismal campaign and Ten Hag will be hoping to hit the ground running at United.

We’ve used the Football Manager 2022 Editor to put Ten Hag at United, and to add some realism we’ve also added Fulham, Bournemouth, and Nottingham Forest to the Premier League, while relegating Norwich City, Watford, and Burnley.

Let’s take a look at how Ten Hag did in his first season at United!


Who did Manchester United buy in the summer window?

United did not exactly spend big as they looked to strengthen their squad under Ten Hag.

They first paid £3.4m to sign ex-Spurs youngster Samuel Shashoua, although he’s firmly one for the future and was loaned to Hamburg for the season.

United then paid £34.5m to sign Mauro Icardi from PSG, before buying two more youngsters in January: Marcelo Allende and Christoph Klarer from MC Torque and Fortuna Dusseldorf respectively.

That was it for new signings.

However, ahead of the new season, United beat off a host of competition to sign Darwin Nunez from Benfica for £46m, and paid the same amount to sign full-back Owen Wijndal from AZ Alkmaar.

The club barely raised anything through sales, although both Phil Jones and Eric Bailly left on loan.


How did the first half of the season go?

They remained horrendously inconsistent.

In their first 21 games of the season in all competitions, United won seven of them. They drew five of them, and lost nine.

It’s not a good look for Ten Hag.


How did the second half of the season go?

Something clicked.

United only lost five more games all season, and went on a relatively impressive run from the end of January to the end of the season.

They only lost twice in the league, to Chelsea and Leeds United, and won 15 games, including a 12-game unbeaten run in the top-flight.

Their most impressive result in that run was arguably their 2-1 win over Arsenal.


Did United win anything?

No.

United remain trophyless, even under the management of Ten Hag.

They were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round by Liverpool, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford after extra time.

In the League Cup, they were humiliated, losing on penalties to lower-league Luton Town in the third round.

In the Champions League, United were terrible.

They didn’t win a single group game: They lost 1-0 at home to AC Milan, 3-1 away to Bayern Munich, and were beaten home and away by Porto. They did rally in their final two games to draw with both Milan and Bayern but they finished bottom of the group and did not even drop into the Europa League.

In the league, they ultimately finished third thanks to that late-season rally, which may well have kept Ten Hag in a job.


What tactics did Ten Hag use?

Next Man United manager Erik ten Hag acknowledging fans

It was a 4-2-3-1 formation, so we’ve got to assume that ETH has played Football Manager before!

David de Gea was his first-choice goalkeeper, while he utilised a back four of Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw.

Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba were a double-pivot in midfield, with Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford playing behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

That’s very similar to United’s tactics now, with Icardi clearly being used as an impact substitute.


Did United deserve their top-four finish?

Yes.

But ultimately, the league was pretty weak.

They took 78 points in total and were 24 points off eventual champions Manchester City; they were also six points behind second-placed Liverpool.

United did finish six points ahead of Chelsea but the chasing pack were remarkably poor.

Leicester City finished fifth but they had just 56 points, 16 points off the top-four.

Ten Hag was clearly helped by just how bad the rest of the top sides were.


Has he done a good job?

Manchester United's new boss Erik ten Hag outside Selhurst Park

One has to say yes.

He didn’t win anything, but he did take United back into the Champions League and the second-half of the season will have given fans reason to be optimistic.

United are willing to splash the cash and will likely do so again as they aim to get back into the title race, which they were some way off this season.


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