regular-article-logo Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Buzz over Manchester United, but Erik ten Hag stays calm

It’s fair to say there is a lot happening both on and off the field at a club that is entering the dawn of a new era

AP/PTI Manchester Published 21.02.23, 05:28 AM
Erik ten Hag.

Erik ten Hag. File picture

It has been a week to remember for Manchester United.

After an epic encounter with Barcelona and at least two takeover bids, a 3-0 win against Leicester on Sunday kept Erik ten Hag’s team firmly in the race for the Premier League title.


It’s fair to say there is a lot happening both on and off the field at a club that is entering the dawn of a new era.

With bids from Qatar and billionaire Jim Ratcliffe confirmed after Friday’s deadline for initial offers, Old Trafford was already in a celebratory mood, with many fans eagerly anticipating the departure of current American owners, the Glazer family.

But Ten Hag is also giving them much to cheer with the impact he has had on a team that has gone 10 years since they last won the league under former coach Alex Ferguson.

No wonder that one leading fan group insisted before kick-off that the Dutchman must be integral to any new owner’s plans.

“After the frustrations of the last decade, it is clear that enormous strides are being taken,” United’s Supporters’ Trust said on Sunday. “Any prospective bidder needs to explicitly commit to backing Erik and his plans to restore United to glory.”

Both Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Ratcliffe have vowed to return United to their former glories and it is not yet known how many other bids were submitted by the time of Friday’s deadline.

But Ten Hag is doing an impressive job of turning the club’s fortunes around even without the aid of new owners as his team remains in contention to win four trophies in his first season.

The win against Leicester kept the pressure on Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of the table and Ten Hag says the takeover will not be allowed to become a distraction.

“We are committed with this club, it is our club, in our heart, but it is not our job (to talk about the sale),” he said. “We focus on football and perform.”

Whether Ten Hag likes it or not, the topic of United’s next owner is not going away. There were repeated chants of “We want Glazers out” during the Leicester match and one fan had a message of opposition to Sheikh Jassim, with a sign which simply read “No to Qatar”.

Qatar was criticised for its treatment of migrant workers in the buildup to hosting last year’s World Cup and its human rights record.

After United’s LGBTQ supporters’ group, the Rainbow Devils, raised “deep concern” about some bids, the Supporters’ Trust added it noted “the importance that any owner respects the rights of all people, particularly women and the LGBTQ+ community.”

On the field, Ten Hag’s team is on a roll and faces a crunch week, which includes the second leg of the Europa League playoff against Barcelona at Old Trafford on Thursday and then the League Cup final against Newcastle at Wembley three days later.

The second leg was on Ten Hag’s mind as he spoke to supporters on his way to the locker room after Leicester.

“I say come on Thursday. It is a big game, make sure you are there and we beat Barcelona together,” he said afterward.

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