ten Hag? Not for me, but I’d like to be wrong

Published: Monday, 11 April 2022

In the end it changed nothing. And we didn’t find out anything new. But - what a game. What a wonderful game of football. If only it was like that every week.

Sadly it can’t be, because City and Liverpool are so much better than the rest. Well - at their very best Chelsea can mix it in that company, but the others are a long, long way behind. Manchester United are light years away, but we’ll come on to them.

I don’t think the semi-final this weekend will be as good. They’ll both make changes, and they’ll both want to win it. I just don’t think it will have the same drama attached, but I sure hope I’m wrong.

I watched the feast at The Etihad with half my thoughts on how United fans would be viewing it. Doubtless with a bit of envy? With anger for sure. Like the jilted bride - it should be them.

Ok, they’re having a bad time right now - but they’re still a special club They’re still ‘Manchester United’. The suggestion that the game between the current top two is now the greatest rivalry of all time is ludicrous. Of course it’s not. 

United‘s games against Liverpool will take some shifting from the No1 spot. They’re our two most successful teams. That’s why. Never mind the historical dislike born as a result of the building of the Manchester Ship Canal. 

On the subject of United - how poor were this current lot at Everton? Awful is the answer. But how long have we been saying that in this blog? I’m pleased Everton got the points - but there really was nothing to beat. Absolutely nothing.

We weren’t wrong to criticise Rashford here. Nor Ronaldo. Nor Pogba. 

Maguire can’t help not being very good. At least he tries and the fee wasn’t his fault. Nor was the £80m that United paid for Sancho his fault - but not trying is. I’m afraid he’s another one who needs to ask himself a few hard questions.

I’ll pose one. What exactly has he contributed to United’s season? Nothing right? Nothing at all. I had this conversation on-air with Andy last Saturday and he was fiercely defending Sancho. That’s fine. I’m sure others will - but let’s put this into context - Luis Diaz has been at Liverpool for 10 minutes and has been on fire. He’s already done more than Sancho has all season. I don’t buy into Andy’s argument that Sancho needs time to settle - and that he’s a ‘baby’ He’s 22 for goodness sake. He’s played in The Bundesliga and lived Manchester before. United have a right to have expected more from another massively over-hyped player.

Fred? Honest trier. Pogba? Waste of space. I repeat what I said last week - I wouldn’t have him anywhere near the club now. He’s stinking the place out.

Varane? Rarely fit. Shaw/Telles/Wan Bissaka/Dalot? It doesn’t matter. Take any two from four. None of them are good enough. McTominay? Good lad - but shouldn’t be able to get into a proper United team.

When Fergie left I said United were eight short. I got hammered for that, but they were. Time has proven that to be so. Despite spending £1b in the decade since - they still are.

Worse than any of the above though is the fact that Rangnick is making Solskjaer look like a genius. Our reporter Matt Crichley (top class btw) described Rangnick as a ‘lost grandad’ on beINSPORTS Saturday. I can’t think of a better way to put it.

And to think - he was greeted as the man who invented the modern game. He was the brains behind the hyper-press. He was the ‘coaches coach’. That’s what they told us. Except he wasn’t.

He conned us. I actually believed some of the things he was saying at first - but it was all puff. He can’t do the job. On paper - and PowerPoint - he almost certainly looks and sounds great. But that’s the trouble with these school teachers. They all do. Look at Bielsa - what did he do at Leeds that Marsch isn’t doing better already?

I’ve got a horrible feeling United are about to compound their appointment errors. Again - I hope I’m wrong - but I don’t believe ten Hag is the answer.

When I talk to people about him - like the Dutch pair Nigel de Jong and Ruud Gullit - two guys who should know - all I ever hear is ‘his attention to detail is first class’. So what? United don’t need that. They’ve had that in Van Gaal, Mourinho and Rangnick. ten Hag would be new Dave Sexton in my view. Football by numbers. Big players don’t want it - but if you’re going down that road, be sure you are stronger than they are - or they’ll chew you up and spit you out.

ten Hag might get the time to prove that he is - but United don’t have time anymore. Of all the teams at the top they’re the one that need things to happen now. They’re already way behind after a decade of waste.

United need a showman. Someone to walk onto the stage at OT and drink it all in. Someone from left field - like Ron Atkinson was. It was Ron who made the call to Chairman Martin Edwards when he heard that Lawrie McMenemy had turned the job down.

Ron knew his football - and he was perfect for United after the misery of the Sexton era. He knew United were different and needed his bravado. Big club. Big man. And he took them all on - even Busby, who resigned his place on the Board because he didn’t agree with spending so much on Bryan Robson. Atkinson didn’t care. He did things his way.

I’m not deriding Sexton. He was a terrific coach. He did wonders at Coventry with young players - but United is different. United need ‘big’.

I’ve got four on my list. Sadly Ronaldo made certain that Conte wasn’t going to get it. I’ve also heard that Conte’s penchant for changing his mind about days off and schedules didn’t impress the commercial dept. How on earth could they plan to satisfy sponsors demands if Conte changed his mind about training all the time? Heaven forbid that football would be the priority! Sponsors must be looked after. Mind boggling isn’t it?

I’d go for one of these - Luis Enrique. Ok, so he wants be in charge of Spain in Qatar. Let him do that. Appoint him and let him take over when the WC has finished. Rangnick is staying anyway isn’t he? (Watch this space - I’m not convinced he is).

Brendan Rodgers. He knows all about the PL - and managing big clubs. They don’t come much bigger than Liverpool and Celtic. Maybe United? I’ll let you argue that.

Players love Rodgers. Talk to anyone at Leicester right now about that.

But if you really wanted to stir things up - Mancini. He’s scared of nothing. He’s like Klopp and Guardiola. He doesn’t take shit from anyone and he doesn’t care who he upsets.

At City that formula worked as he turned them from nearly men into winners. We know that eventually the players did for him and downed tools - but that suited management. Their long term target was always Guardiola and having Mancini turn himself into a firm fans favourite wasn’t going to be allowed to happen. Getting rid of Pellegrini to make that appointment was always going to be easier than sacking a serial winner like Mancini.

He won’t get the job at OT - but he’d be a marvellous fit. He’s exactly what they need in that vipers nest of a dressing room.

So it’s looking more and more like ten Hag - and more football by numbers. Smaller and smaller budget numbers as well if United don’t qualify for Europe. Right now - would you back them to do that? Does ten Hag have the magnetism to persuade big players to join if they’re out of Europe? It’s bad enough being out of the CL That’s all going to be a factor. If he gets it I wish him well - but I don’t see it.

And finally - 3’45” seconds to disallow an Arsenal goal that was impossible to prove was off-side. It should’ve stood. We’ve got to stop trying to find ways to disallow goals.

And well done Anthony Taylor. Yes - he could’ve sent players off but a refs primary responsibility is to keep 22 on. Taylor did that and played his part in a classic.