Ten Hag faces the biggest challenge pf his managerial career

Manchester United are a horrible mess of a football club… they have plummeted to desperate depths, and lifting them off the floor will be the biggest challenge of Erik Ten Hag’s life

  • Manchester United saw their faint hopes of top four all but flitter away at Arsenal
  • Erik Ten Hag is taking over as manager from Ralf Rangnick in the summer 
  • Jesse Lingard indicated that the dressing room is not a happy place to be 

It says it all about the desperate depths Manchester United have plummeted to that this was actually one of their better recent performances and they were still beaten comfortably, Arsenal ending the game playing ‘ole’ football and Super Mik Arteta being serenaded as they moved back into top four pole position.

In light of just how bad they have been, and if you were feeling generous, within United’s performance there were some tiny straws for incoming manager Erik ten Hag to clutch at.

But not enough of them to distort the overall picture of the true turmoil United are in on and off the pitch.

Erik Ten Hag has the toughest job of his managerial career on his hands trying to fix Manchester United’s problems – on and off the pitcj

That was laid bare in brutally honest fashion by Scott McTominay, Paul Scholes – via Jesse Lingard – and interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

And their words would have reverberated all the way from north London to NEC Nijmegen, where Ten Hag was steering Ajax a step closer to the Eredivisie title.

Confirmed as United’s next manager last week, Ten Hag has said all the right things about remaining focused on Ajax for the rest of this season.

But, make no mistake, he is doing two jobs right now and the one he has not yet officially begun might well be worrying him more than the one he has to finish. It should be.

Manchester United operated in polar opposite fashion to Arsenal, who appear united behind the same goals

Ajax won thanks to an 88th-minute goal but once full details of this latest disastrous United day to forget reached Ten Hag any smile would have been wiped quickly off his face.

The Dutchman is under no illusions about the size of the task he has taken on with United. This was another occasion which underlined it.

His work on his planned squad overhaul is already underway and United’s shambolic defending and lack of cutting edge highlighted why a centre-back, holding midfielder and striker are all being sought, among other positions.

Jesse Lingard (centre) told Paul Scholes that the dressing room was not a nice place to be

Scarily, given the ins and outs required, repairing the broken dressing room he will inherit and lifting this club off the floor will be an even bigger challenge.

There are doubts from some familiar with Ten Hag about whether he has the force of personality for the Manchester United job and all it entails.

He has no option other than to prove them wrong.

McTominay revealed Ten Hag is joining a club that has ‘a whole load of problems in terms of players, staff, everything higher up.’

Ralf Rangnick has failed to unify the dressing room and Erik Ten Hag has a tough job coming

Lingard apparently told Scholes that the dressing room was ‘a disaster.’ Rangnick did little to dispel that.

Indications that all was not well behind the scenes have been evident for a while. United’s actions at the Emirates spoke as loud as any words.

During an early break in play while Bukayo Saka received treatment the difference in reaction from both teams was eye-opening.

Arsenal’s entire team rushed alertly to the sideline, huddled around manager Mikel Arteta, listening intently to his animated instructions. Rangnick barely spoke to any of his players.

Most remained scattered across the pitch, pretty much in their positions, heads down, disinterested, distant and not at all switched on to the bonus coaching opportunity.

United needed it more at that point too. They already trailed to Nuno Tavares’s opener.

It was a scene that highlighted the contrasting unity in the two camps and an indication of which direction this game was heading.

Once the inevitable happened, Cristiano Ronaldo, scorer of United’s consolation was first in blue down the tunnel, though this time that was understandable.

He was back in action after his heartbreaking family tragedy and then saw his personal efforts go without their deserved reward. Marcus Rashford and Lingard were off next.

To their credit, before departing they at least fulfilled an earlier promise to give their shirts to some members of Arsenal’s under-9s who were sitting near the bench the duo occupied for most of the afternoon.

The struggles of Bruno Fernandes this season sum up Manchester United’s plight

The Portuguese should have been sent off for his lunge on Nuno Tavares late on in the game

The rest ventured sheepishly and half-heartedly towards the away fans though noticeably not close enough to be in earshot of any potential vitriol.

United ended as disjointed as they defended during the game.

Raphael Varane, Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot produced a comedy of errors before Tavares struck.

Telles’s defending before the fouled Saka scored from the spot was hopelessly clumsy.

Bruno Fernandes, whose horror show included a missed penalty and lucky red card escape, sloppily lost possession before Granit Xhaka’s third for Arsenal.

This season cannot end soon enough for United. Ten Hag can then start sorting out this horrible mess of a club and team they have become.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale 7; Cedric 5 (Tomiyasu 90), White 7, Gabriel 7, Tavares 5.5; Xhaka 8.5, Elneny 8; Saka 7.5 (Holding 74, 7) Odegaard 8, Smith Rowe 6.5 (Martinelli 64, 6); Nketiah 7.

Booked: Xhaka, Tavares, Elneny

Scorers: Tavares 3, Saka 32p, Xhaka 70

Manager: Mikel Arteta 8.5

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Dalot 5, Lindelof 5.5, Varane 5, Telles 4; McTominay 6, Matic 7 (Rashford 78); Elanga 6.5 (Lingard 78), Fernandes 4 (Mata 84), Sancho 7.5; Ronaldo 8.

Scorers: Ronaldo 34

Booked: Telles, Fernandes, Lindelof, Ronaldo

Scorer: Ronaldo 34

Manager: Ralf Rangnick 6

Referee: Craig Pawson 7

Attendance: 60,223

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