Ten Hag’s Man United Rebuild Has Been Aided By The Implosion Of Closest Rivals

Erik ten Hag's job at Old Trafford has been helped by Liverpool and Man City falling into a tailspin
14:00, 10 Feb 2023

When Erik ten Hag was asked to bring Manchester United back from the dead, he was happy to admit it was a mammoth task.

Yet even the Dutchman, who got the job by winning back-to-back titles in one of Europe’s most feeble leagues, did not expect to be given such a helping hand.

Ten Hag has been toiling away turning Marcus Rashford into a striker again, levering prima donna Cristiano Ronaldo out of the country and transforming Bruno Fernandes into an asset rather than a liability. But he needn’t have tried so hard.


In Man United’s particular corner of England’s north west lie three of the biggest teams in the country who traditionally have a huge say in where the glory goes each season.

Watching Manchester City and Liverpool implode spectacularly is a gift from above for those who toil day in, day out at Old Trafford battling to get Man United back on competing terms with their closest geographical and fiercest sporting rivals.

Nine of the last 12 Premier League titles have been shared between these three northern powerhouses. The last seven Carabo Cups. Only the FA Cup has proved an anomaly.

City and Liverpool have shared most of the silverware with Manchester United, still the biggest club financially by a country mile, languishing in a sorry third place.

Ten Hag arrived in England last summer faced with restoring the club’s position as the one-time undisputed champions. It seemed a lifetime’s work - if not mission impossible.

Lucky Erik must have done something right in a previous life because the stars have aligned to place the two clubs that have embarrassed United more than any other in recent years, into tailspin.


The 115 charges of financial wrongdoing levelled at reigning champions Manchester City is going to dog Pep Guardiola whatever the bullish nonsense the Spaniard conjures up.  

Threats of points deductions, even worse enforced relegation, will haunt the players irrespective of what noises come out from the top.

Do you think striker Erling Haaland is going to hang around if there is even a sniff of a chance of City being forced to drop a division?

Not just him but Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and rising star Rico Lewis are probably already being ‘advised’ about get outs should the worst happen.

Players are inherently selfish and they have to be. It’s a short career and, being Norwegian, Haaland is going to win precious little from international football. 

Not only the single-minded players, what will fickle sponsors do with their hard-earned if City are having to play the second round of the Carabao Cup instead of the Champions League?

Of course, Man City’s aptly named chief of defence, Lord Pannick KC, will make sure the case against corruption charges drags on for an eternity. 

It’s an old legal trick to slow the case down rather like United would numb the opposition into a trance with their laboured football under Jose Mourinho.

But that is only going to have a further draining effect on the players and coaches when they are continually questioned about the alleged dodgy dealings of their superiors.

Liverpool’s problems are way more straightforward but no less welcome for Ten Hag and his team 35 miles west along the M62.

Man United are 20/1 to win the Premier League with Betfred*

At Anfield, manager Jurgen Klopp has made defending a sackable offence. The recruitment policy is a dog’s dinner, injuries are taking their toll and established players are enduring a nightmare season.

Consequently, the only team which has laid a glove on Manchester City in the title race in the past five years is sinking without trace.

Tenth in the table and, in theory, they could be as low as 11th by the time they face resurgent Everton in the lottery of the Merseyside Derby on Monday. 

Klopp has had his teeth straightened and his myopia cured with lasers but has still taken his eye off the ball. Too much berating of officials and not enough work on stopping the opposition from scoring goals is becoming the hallmark of the German’s management this season.

Meanwhile, Ten Hag is quietly revitalising players who were left swinging in the wind by his predecessor and criticised to death by the manager before that.

One defeat in 16 games and up to third in the table is an impressive turnaround from the start of the campaign when they lost their opening two matches and got pumped 4-0 by Brentford.

It’s taken a lot of hard graft from a manager new to the rigours of English football to pull it off but with the teams around him imploding it couldn’t have gone better.

If Ten Hag is not rubbing his hands together at City and Liverpool’s woes, he bloody well should be.

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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