As featured on NewsNow: Football news

Ten Hag fires back: Why Ratcliffe must take notice of Man Utd manager's message

COMMENT: It was a message for the pundits - after all, he did refer to them directly. But Erik ten Hag's interview in midweek should also act as a reminder to his new bosses at Manchester United...

Ten Hag's sit-down with Gary Neville, the former United captain, was frank, open and genuinely honest. The United manager even volunteering headlines to his unexpectant interviewer. He discussed missing out on Harry Kane. He dropped Frenkie de Jong's name as another United tried - and failed - to sign for him. And he laid out the need for the club to keep shopping at that level given supporter expectations.

And as we say, the soundbites made news. Such transfer talk always does. But what was just as interesting - and encouraging for this column - was Ten Hag highlighting the cultural shift the club has undergone since he took charge almost two years ago.

Last week,'s transfer expert Rudy Galetti offered us some information from his United sources about the motivations of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and all this squad overhauls and coaching changes. Ratcliffe and Ineos, it appears, have come in determined to make a clean break from the past. The players. The staff. The manager. They're all viewed as part of an era that Ratcliffe wants his version of United to get beyond. Hence, the management changes all around Ten Hag and the lack of denial over claims of massive player clearouts.

But as Ten Hag pointed out to Neville - and as we've highlighted right here - that much-needed change has been working through the club these past two years. The problem players are gone. Wiser choices are being made in the transfer market. And the club's youth system has been transformed - all under Ten Hag's watch.

"There is a game model here," stated the Dutchman. "How do you think [Alejandro] Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo are able to come up? That's because it was one of my objectives from the previous leadership team to bring that in.

"It was already going, they were already improving he academy. You can see they won the FA Youth Cup, the academy teams are becoming champions and that is the structure that was laid out a couple of years ago.

"Now you see some revenues from it, and the best is by bringing players [into] the first team like Kobbie and Garnacho."

Good for Ten Hag, mentioning the influence of John Murtough and Richard Arnold on what we're now witnessing on the Carrington youth pitches. Both men deserve credit for bringing through the changes which have reignited the club's academy production.

And as we've stated in past columns, for the youth system, you can also highlight the changes inside the senior locker room. Again, the problem players have been pushed out. The leadership and professionalism has jumped up a notch. It's why Mainoo, Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund have been able to find their way as quickly as they have. The manager has been important. But the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro and Rapha Varane more so - which all three youngsters have attested to in various interviews.

"On one hand, we were quite confident we made the right choices (in the transfer market) and we can make the next step," stated Ten Hag. "But all the injuries are coming and we made so many changes in some positions like the back four.

"We've now played 47 games and we had 30 combinations in the back four. They weren't from choices you make, they were forced choices because the players were injured… anyone with even a little bit of knowledge about football, they will know it will have a huge impact.

"But the fans want to see a successful team, a team that's winning. What we always try to do, and it's a compliment to the team, in every game, they went for it and they had a spirit."

The injuries at United are a reason for their inconsistency this season, not an excuse. With a settled XI we saw the potential of this team last season until Lisandro Martinez's metatarsal injury. This is really what Ratcliffe should be seeing now. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. Good work has been done during the Ten Hag era. Positive change has been made.

Can more be improved? Of course. But talk of mass clearouts and all players being transfer-listed does no-one any good. And as we've stated in past columns, that no-one connected to Ratcliffe pushes back on such stories simply isn't good enough. Indeed, in terms of United, Ratcliffe's approach in terms of media relations is a disaster.

Need proof? Just consider Fernandes' response to those reports that he was among senior players offers would be considered for this summer: "Obviously, it doesn't just depend on me, does it?

"A player always has to want to be here, but at the same time, you have to want him to stay. At the moment, I feel there's that on both sides."

That the club captain and their best performer is forced to react to such reports is just ridiculous. Again, like his manager, Fernandes has been a positive force for United ever since he arrived.

The club is changing for the better. It has been for the past two years. As Ten Hag highlighted last week, there is no reason for United's new co-owner to rip things up and start again.

Video of the day:

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie


Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free