No-nonsense Erik Ten Hag stamps mark on new-look United
New Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag kicked off his reign with three wins and a draw on their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.
Despite missing wantaway Cristiano Ronaldo they comfortably beat Liverpool, Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace, and drew with Aston Villa, as they count down to the new Premier League season in two weeks.
Ronaldo wants out of the club. He failed to report for pre-season training at the club’s Carrington training complex and missed their tour due to a “family issue”.
But Ten Hag said he had spoken to the unsettled superstar striker and insisted he was “not for sale”.
The 37-year-old’s attempt to force his way out of Old Trafford has also failed to spark the expected rush for his signature.
“We are planning for Cristiano Ronaldo for the season and that’s it and I’m looking forward to working with him,” the new boss said in Thailand.
He may be in the twilight of his career, but Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions last season and was named the club’s player of the year.
There was speculation that England defender Harry Maguire could be dumped as captain and dropped altogether after receiving intense criticism from fans last season over his performances.
But Erik Ten Hag swiftly put that to bed by handing the experienced international centre-back the armband for their pre-season tour and saying that he would remain the club captain beyond that.
“He is an established captain for a few years and he has achieved a lot of success, so I don’t doubt about this issue,” the Dutchman said ahead of the opening game against Liverpool in Bangkok, which Maguire missed with a niggle.
The 29-year-old started against Palace in Melbourne but was targeted by some fans with boos.
Ten Hag may be sure about him, but it seems that some supporters are going to need a lot more convincing.
ANTHONY MARTIAL MAKES CASE
With Ronaldo a no-show, forward Anthony Martial grabbed his chance to impress the new boss with three well-taken goals on tour.
The 26-year-old’s career at United looked over after spending the second half of last season on loan at Sevilla, but he appears revitalised.
Sharp and energetic, he linked well up front with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho as he fights for his future.
Martial enjoyed his best spell at United under another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal, with the early signs pointing to the similarly methodical Erik Ten Hag also able to bring the best out of the French international.
DISCIPLINARIAN ERIK TEN HAG
Erik Ten Hag has got tough with his players, deploying a system of fines if they step out of line and reportedly banning alcohol during match weeks.
Midfielder Bruno Fernandes welcomed the stricter approach.
“We missed that for a while and discipline is important,” the Portuguese international said.
“Discipline is not only the way you play, the position that you have, what you have to do, it’s also off the pitch.
“Don’t be late for the meetings, don’t be late for the meals.
“That’s really important because if everyone is on time and someone comes late, he should be punished.”
Erik Ten Hag has made three key signings as his new-look squad takes shape – midfielder Christian Eriksen and defenders Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord and Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez.
Malacia was the only one on tour and showed his credentials when he came on at left-back for Luke Shaw.
But it is the experienced midfield schemer Eriksen, who joined from Brentford, that Ten Hag seems most excited about.
“I think he is a magnificent football player and I think the fans will enjoy watching him because he’s creative, he has ideas,” Ten Hag said of the 30-year-old Dane, who can be an asset in dead-ball situations.
United are still haggling with Barcelona for Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Ten Hag says he wants more new faces.
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