Much of 2023/24 so far has seen Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United future called into question.
Given Man United have not been at their best in the league this season and recently lost 4-3 to FC Copenhagen in the Champions League, it is easy to see why ten Hag has come in for some scrutiny.
However, when looking at the broader picture, Ten Hag’s short stint in charge of Manchester United has gone pretty well.
Manchester United beat Luton Town 1-0 this past Saturday in a Premier League meeting. That win means Erik ten Hag is the first manager to win 30 of his first 50 league games in charge of Manchester United.
Ten Hag himself was not overly thrilled by his record when quizzed on it post-Luton, but it is still an indicator that things are moving in the right direction.
“That is a nice achievement but, in this moment, I can’t do anything with it. I have other concerns,” ten Hag said on winning 30 Premier League matches.
“What is important is we are not always playing that well this season but you’ve seen we’re stepping up – in Copenhagen and also this performance, creating a lot of chances. I think it gives belief for the future, as I’ve said, that we’re not that far away.
“So, when we start playing very good football, what this team is capable of, then we are competitive for the top four. I’m convinced of that.
“I’m sure other teams will have their setbacks. We already had a lot of setbacks. We dealt with it and now we have to overcome that and step up.”
Despite ten Hag being eager to play down such an achievement, it is impressive, especially when compared to other managers who have taken to the dugout in England’s top flight.
Only Sir Alex Ferguson (103) has won more points from their first 50 Premier League matches in charge of Manchester United than ten Hag (96).
Elsewhere, only five managers in the history of the Premier League have picked up more wins than ten Hag from their first 50 games in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho (39), Antonio Conte (38), Carlo Ancelotti (36), Pep Guardiola and Manuel Pellegrini (both 34).
The majority of those managers, though, took over sides in much better shape than Manchester United are currently. A more apt comparison for ten Hag would be to look at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool record, with ten Hag securing four more points than the German did during his first 50 games at the helm for the Reds.
The German took over Liverpool in October of 2015, with their squad having similar issues to Manchester United’s right now. Klopp finished 8th in the Premier League in 2015/16 and 4th during his first full campaign in England.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, guided Manchester United to a 3rd-place finish in his first full season at Old Trafford and also won the League Cup - Jurgen Klopp did not win a trophy at Liverpool until 2019.
Granted, Liverpool’s squad was slightly worse for wear than Manchester United’s when Klopp took over, but both sides needed/need a serious rebuild. And so far, despite growing discontent online, history suggests the Dutchman is overcharging with the tools at his disposal.
One issue Erik ten Hag may face when trying to emulate Jurgen Klopp’s success, however, is transfer backing.
Liverpool’s former sporting director Michael Edwards made some superb signings for the Reds before he left his role earlier this year, including Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Mohamed Salah – all players who have been crucial to the Merseysiders’ success under Klopp.
Manchester United, meanwhile, currently do not have a sporting director and their transfer record post-Sir Alex Ferguson is not great. Should Manchester United be able to improve their transfer strategy going forward, though, Erik ten Hag does appear to be the man who can return the Red Devils to their former glory.