Manchester United has made significant progress under manager Erik Ten Hag, but the difficulties that hampered Ralf Rangnick’s interim term are clearly still a concern.
The German coach lasted just over a half-season at Old Trafford and made it plain that the players failed to perform as a unit. That, among other things, is why United failed to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season.
Rangnick made it plain when he took over that developing cohesion and on-pitch chemistry was one of his top aims, albeit he clearly fell short of that goal. “All of my efforts for the next six months will be focused on helping these players fulfill their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team,” he stated in December 2021.
Ten Hag supports Rangnick’s wish to see United play as a unit rather than as 11 individuals. Following a 3-2 pre-season friendly defeat to Borussia Dortmund in Las Vegas, the Dutchman stated as much.
Certain portions of the performance were deemed “unforgivable” by Ten Hag. United seized the lead thanks to a Diogo Dalot goal, but Donyell Malen scored twice shortly before halftime to put the game out of reach.
Antony momentarily brought United back into the game, but Youssoufa Moukoko scored a late winner for Dortmund, leaving Ten Hag enraged.
“However, the last half-hour was bad, a poor performance.” They didn’t play by the rules at all, not when pressing, building up, or attacking. On the pitch, there were 11 people.
“That was a disaster. I told the squad, “I think it was a good tour, but you want to finish with a good performance, and there were only 60 minutes that I was pleased with, but not the goals we conceded because the first was poor defending and the second was poor in the build-up.”
Ten Hag didn’t stop there, instead reminding his players that no matter how high or low the stakes of each game are, the standards stay the same.
“That’s not us, we have to keep control, keep responsibility on the ball, and it was the same for the 3-2,” he continued. “That can’t happen, and it’s unforgivable, even if the person is friendly.”
Ten Hag has two more friendlies to work his magic and strengthen United’s ability to function as a cohesive unit before the Premier League season begins. Because of the nature and complexity of the English top division, a sluggish start could be costly.