Monday, January 30, 2023

Erik ten Hag is fulfilling his Bayern Munich pledge at Manchester United

Erik ten Hag is fulfilling his Bayern Munich pledge at Manchester United

 Manchester United  got to within a point of the top four on Sunday evening, earning a hard-fought 1-0 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford.

Marcus Rashford, who will have dreams of being included in Gareth Southgate’s England side for the World Cup, netted his 100th goal in United colours to seal the points, smashing an impressive header past Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Although his sixth goal of the season was enough to earn a second successive Premier League home win for United, they rode their luck in the second half.

David de Gea produced a glut of saves to keep United’s lead intact, including two brilliant stops to deny Kurt Zouma and Declan Rice.

The Reds, not for the first time in recent weeks, had to dig deep to get the job done and collect a maximum haul of points.

It was identical to when they had to put their bodies on the line to keep Everton out in the dying minutes of their 2-1 win at Goodison Park just over three weeks ago. 

United had a lead to protect and it required Erik ten Hag’s players to roll up their sleeves and see the job through.

Forward players have been obliged to track back and support defenders in those instances, showing to the collective responsibility Ten Hag has established.

On the flip side, defensive players have backed the attackers in attacking scenarios.

The likes of Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw, who operate in the full-back positions, have been tasked with getting forward as much as possible, especially the former, while the likes of Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, whose primary responsibilities are to defend and keep the back door shut, have played progressive, forward-thinking passes to get United high up the pitch.

But this should not come as a surprise to anyone watching United, given Ten Hag’s ambition to play in this manner.

During his time at Ajax, the Dutchman revealed his footballing philosophy, which was influenced by Pep Guardiola, with whom he worked at Bayern Munich. 

The Dutchman will lead his team to Spain to play Real Sociedad in a crucial Europa League match later this week. Ten Hag described how he is intent on commanding possession and ensuring that everyone attacks and defends as one unit.

Ten Hag, speaking back in April 2019 to SZ, stated, “I watch Bayern play every weekend. Bayern have become my club. Since Pep [worked in Germany], football in Germany is different.

“I looked at almost every training back then, and I took a lot of methodical lessons on how to transfer his philosophy to the pitch. I want to have possession and hurt the opponent.

“It’s about possession, about movement, about vertical attacking patterns, about pressing, wingers moving into the middle to make room for the full-backs. Everyone is attacking, everyone is defending.”

Since the beginning of his United reign, Ten Hag has regularly expressed his desire to direct and orchestrate matches.

However, as the second half against West Ham demonstrated, United will face scenarios in which they are unable to do so and must instead absorb pressure and play differently.

However, as Ten Hag mentioned in a recent interview, he is willing to adapt his game to different conditions, which has been evident thus far in this season.

“No, because there’s moments and situations where I coach differently and let my team play differently,” the Dutchman said in an interview with Ajax TV, answering a question about always wanting to be an ‘extremely attack-minded coach’.

“It has to fit the DNA of Ajax. It might be different at another club, but even Ajax have to master different strategies in order to be successful.”

The first few months of the season have demonstrated that United must, in Ten Hag’s words, “master diverse techniques.”

They have won in a variety of ways, which is evidence that the Dutchman has instilled his expectations in his players.

For example, the victories over Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were the result of playing with a high level of intensity, dominating throughout, and never appearing to be in danger.

The victories over Everton, Southampton, and West Ham, which were all achieved by a single goal, needed United to dig deep and be professional.

United’s fans are observing signs of Ten Hag’s mentality, in that the Reds are progressive and desire to play good football. But they are also observing evidence of Ten Hag’s adaptability to manage games and complete tasks.

Erik ten Hag is fulfilling his Bayern Munich pledge at Manchester United

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