Despite their stunning 3-1 win against Arsenal, Liverpool veteran Graeme Souness believes Manchester United fans will be upset with Erik ten Hag.
On Sunday, the Dutch maestro oversaw his fourth consecutive Premier League victory at Old Trafford, as the Red Devils took all three points due to a double from Marcus Rashford and a debut goal from new £85 million signing Antony. Ten Hag has abandoned his preferred style of play – one focused on free-flowing, total football – in order to recover from a dreadful start to his term, particularly in recent triumphs at home against Arsenal and Liverpool.
While Souness praised the decision, he also advised that the ex-Ajax manager should adapt his approach in order to win over the fans in the long run.
“I think the first two games, losing in the manner that they did against Brentford, I think it was a wake-up call for the new manager,” Souness revealed on talkSPORT, where he is now a regular analyst.
“I believe he looked at his players and thought, ‘we’re good enough to take people on in a true end-to-end football game because we’ve got better players.'” But after two games, he may have reconsidered, and I believe there has been a little of a restart because of the manner they’re digging out results now, which is commendable.
“They’re tenacious, determined, and exhibit genuine energy and unity… I believe they are now playing pragmatically, rather than in the manner of Manchester United.”
His assessment contrasts with that of United legend Paul Scholes, who complimented Ten Hag for his tactical versatility and refusal to be dogmatic about his preferred approach to games. “These players are maybe not suited to the way he wants to play now,” Scholes told Premier League productions.
“Don’t we talk about philosophies all the time?” These executives are obstinate. [Mikel] Arteta will be obstinate, [Pep] Guardiola will be obstinate, and Jurgen Klopp will be obstinate. But you have to give this man credit because he’s truly moved away from what he wants to do.
“Now, why would you switch back to something that didn’t work at the start of the season?” Why should he modify the way he plays football on the counter-attack with this collection of players?”
Regardless of what others say, Ten Hag admits that the Red Devils have a long way to go before they are completely operational in his image. “I realize fans are dreaming, but Manchester United’s standards have to be high,” United manager Jose Mourinho said at a post-match news conference.
“[But] we’re at the start of a process, we’re still a long way away, and we need to do things much better than we do.” That will require an investment; we must work together every day to bring those high standards to Carrington. We must improve if we are to win trophies in the end.
“We have to win every game, and [the fans] have to see that attitude: that we have to [want to] win games.” We live those high standards and principles, and when you demonstrate discipline, you build a winning culture, which is what we must strive for. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. We must continue this procedure.”