Teamwork makes the dream work

Is FA Cup triumph sufficient to avoid wasting Ten Hag’s Man United profession?


LONDON — Erik ten Hag mentioned “I do not know” when requested whether or not he has a future at Manchester United following their FA Cup last win in opposition to Manchester Metropolis on Saturday, however his physique language — as he cradled the trophy in entrance the membership’s supporters — hinted at what he actually knew following months of hypothesis that he will probably be changed as supervisor. This could have been his most interesting hour since arriving from Ajax two years in the past, nevertheless it appears more likely to be his final one, too.

Ten Hag, 54, patted the United crest on his membership blazer as if touching his coronary heart after which waved to the followers in a number of instructions. If it wasn’t an emotional farewell, it was actually a wierd method to have a good time successful a second trophy in two seasons as supervisor.

Previous to that, he had embraced his gamers individually on the last whistle, however they weren’t celebratory hugs, extra expressions of thanks, consoling pats on the again. His chats with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, the 2 England defenders who missed the 2-1 Wembley win in opposition to Metropolis attributable to harm, seemed like a guardian telling a toddler that all the pieces could be OK sooner or later.

There was much less private heat with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s minority proprietor, as Ten Hag collected the cup within the Royal Field. A businesslike handshake might be the easiest way to explain it.

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The backdrop to the postmatch scenes was supplied by the prematch buildup. One report Friday acknowledged that Ten Hag could be fired by United whatever the consequence of the Cup last.

Eight years in the past, Louis van Gaal suffered the identical destiny, with the previous Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach dismissed inside 48 hours of a 2-1 win in opposition to Crystal Palace and changed by Jose Mourinho. If the identical occurs to Ten Hag — United haven’t confirmed the stories that he will probably be sacked — it’ll appear a very brutal finish to a two-year reign that promised a lot initially however pale in his second season.

Nevertheless, United’s new minority house owners, Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group, have commissioned an in-depth overview of all soccer issues at Previous Trafford and the decision will probably be primarily based on what has occurred within the weeks and months main as much as the Cup last. If Ten Hag loses his job, it is going to be as a result of a massively costly crew completed eighth within the Premier League, crashed out of the Champions League on the group stage and infuriated supporters with a collection of inexplicably dangerous performances.

Beating Pep Guardiola’s Metropolis, the four-time Premier League champions, is by a long way Ten Hag’s largest win, however the actuality is that he left it far too late, to the extent that it appears like an anomaly — one that’s nowhere close to sufficient to overturn the proof stacked up in opposition to him.

It’s a complicated scenario.

United haven’t denied that they’ve assessed various coaches in latest months, together with England supervisor Gareth Southgate, Brentford‘s Thomas Frank and Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna, but they’ve additionally mentioned that INEOS are planning subsequent season with Ten Hag in thoughts. Half an hour after telling the BBC at Wembley that he didn’t know if could be at United subsequent season, he mentioned in his information convention that he has been instructed he’s a part of the plans.

“What number of instances do I’ve to inform you?” Ten Hag requested members of the media. “Each time is identical query, do I’ve to repeat myself 10,15, 20 instances? They do not have to inform me each week in the event that they inform me so typically. I heard it many instances.”

Time will inform, however a membership assertion on a quiet day within the weeks forward thanking Ten Hag for his efforts could be no shock. That is how soccer works, and he is aware of that in addition to anybody who has earned a dwelling from the sport.

If that is his parting shot, although, what a method to go. An FA Cup win in opposition to United’s crosstown rivals, delivered by objectives from two of their teenage stars.

Ten Hag has turned Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo — each 19 — into first-team regulars throughout his time in cost. They’re the brilliant lights of United’s future.

Whereas they may not but warrant comparisons to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo after they turned first-team stars at United 20 years in the past, Ten Hag actually deserves credit score for placing his religion in them to carry out. He hasn’t been capable of coax such top-level performances this season from his established gamers, although, together with Marcus Rashford, Casemiro and Raphaël Varane.

If Ten Hag is to get replaced, his successor could have two jewels to shine in Garnacho and Mainoo.

Garnacho put United forward when he took benefit of a mixup between Metropolis’s Josko Gvardiol and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega on half-hour. The Argentina winger then helped create the second for Mainoo 9 minutes later with a right-wing run adopted by a go to Bruno Fernandes, who brilliantly teed up Mainoo with a first-time go.

Sofyan Amrabat‘s expertise alongside Mainoo in midfield was key, serving to United maintain their very own in opposition to Metropolis’s highly effective engine room. Ten Hag deserves a nod for choosing the Morocco worldwide on this recreation.

Though Jérémy Doku‘s 87th-minute objective, which beat keeper André Onana too simply on the close to publish, ensured a tense finish to the sport for United, Ten Hag’s gamers held on to win the Cup for the primary time in eight years and make it two trophies in two seasons for the Dutchman.

“Once I began right here I mentioned I’m right here to win and likewise I need to construct a crew and each I’m doing,” Ten Hag mentioned. “But when they do not need me anymore, I’m going someplace else and win video games and win trophies.”

Defiant to the top, and Ten Hag has earned the appropriate to be so.

Whereas this felt like the start of one thing, it additionally felt like a curtain name. Varane is leaving as a free agent, Amrabat will head again to Fiorentina on the finish of his mortgage transfer and query marks hover over the futures of Rashford, Casemiro, Maguire, Victor Lindelöf, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and extra.

The largest departure is nearly sure to be that of Ten Hag, although. Deep down, he is aware of the way it works, and never even an FA Cup win over Manchester Metropolis is more likely to be sufficient to avoid wasting him.