It looks pathet­ic.

Disgrace with Coventry and the strange reaction of the Man United coach

Man­ches­ter Unit­ed is hav­ing anoth­er sour sea­son: it is only sev­enth in the cham­pi­onship and is unlike­ly to make it into the Cham­pi­ons League, even if the Pre­mier League gets an addi­tion­al slot — there is a 10-point gap to fifth place. The Red Dev­ils were elim­i­nat­ed from Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion at the group stage: they took last place in the Cham­pi­ons League quar­tet with Bay­ern and much less­er sta­tus Copen­hagen and Galatasaray. The only pos­i­tive thing was the sec­ond FA Cup final in a row. True, even the only hol­i­day of the sea­son was spoiled by the Man­cu­ni­ans with a curios­i­ty in the semi-final and the whin­ing of head coach Erik ten Hag.

The Red Dev­ils beat Coven­try from the Cham­pi­onship with great dif­fi­cul­ty in the semi-finals. The mod­est oppo­nent does not even qual­i­fy for pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League (they are eighth, nine points from the play-off zone), but they almost dis­graced one of the great­est teams in Eng­land. Man­ches­ter turned a 3–0 lead into a 3–3 lead in the final 20 min­utes of reg­u­la­tion time and almost went out in over­time. Only a min­i­mal off­side call by the sky blue for­ward saved ten Hag’s gang from con­ced­ing a fourth goal. As a result, the Man­cu­ni­ans won the penal­ty shootout, not with­out prob­lems (Casemiro missed the first kick).

Manchester United football players  Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford. “Man­ches­ter Unit­ed” was one step away from dis­grace, “Bay­er” escaped in Dort­mund, “Mona­co” with­out Golovin soared to sec­ond place

After the final whis­tle, the only thing that sur­prised the Man­cu­ni­ans more than their slack­ness was the reac­tion of their head coach Erik ten Hag. It seemed that the Dutch­man had to admit that caus­ing such a mess in the FA Cup semi-final was unfor­giv­able for Man­ches­ter Unit­ed. But instead, Eric aggres­sive­ly attacked the media, which called Man­ches­ter Unit­ed’s per­for­mance shame­ful.

“No, your reac­tion and com­ments are shame­ful. In top foot­ball, the most impor­tant thing is the result. We reached the final and deserved it not only in this match, but also in the oth­ers. We lost con­trol of the game for 20 min­utes and were unlucky when the score became 3:2, and then 3:3. And yes, in the end we were very lucky, obvi­ous­ly. We did well on penal­ties and made it to the final — a huge achieve­ment. Reach­ing the finals for the sec­ond time in two years is amaz­ing. This is the fourth cup final in four years in my coach­ing career. Such com­ments are a dis­grace,” Ten Hag con­clud­ed.

But through­out the game Man­ches­ter did not look like a team that was in com­plete con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. Accord­ing to OptaCoven­try cre­at­ed two clear scor­ing chances (against Man­ches­ter United’s three) and lost slight­ly xG — 2.06 ver­sus 2.60. The Red Dev­ils even allowed their cham­pi­onship oppo­nent to take 10 shots from the penal­ty area, and out of 28 of their own shots, only six were on tar­get (the oppo­nent had five). It is very strange to defend such a result, giv­en the con­text: ten Hag’s team crawled into the FA Cup final with great dif­fi­cul­ty in a con­fronta­tion with the mid­dle peas­ants of the cham­pi­onship.

Cobby Maine, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes. Man­ches­ter Unit­ed has the worst defense in the top 5 leagues in 2024. More pow­er­ful trans­fers will be need­ed in the sum­mer

Only ten Hag seemed to see some­thing pos­i­tive in the match against Coven­try. Even the play­ers did not cel­e­brate reach­ing the final after Ras­mus Heilun­n’s win­ning penal­ty: the Dane him­self, after an accu­rate shot, ran up to the stands in a fit of emo­tion, but quick­ly noticed that none of his team­mates were com­ing to rejoice with him, and became qui­et. It looked com­i­cal. Har­ry Maguiar first of all went to shake hands with his oppo­nents — the play­ers clear­ly felt the hor­ror of what had hap­pened.

Did Coven­try give them a beat­ing? Wow! Ten Hag will be lucky to return to the bench next sea­son. This should­n’t hap­pen. Under no cir­cum­stances should he stay. Some­thing has to change any­way»said for­mer Eng­land play­er Paul Mer­son.

Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag
Eric ten Hag.
Pho­to by Reuters

Ten Hag complains of an epidemic of injuries, but he is not the only one with such problems

Ten Hag appears to be unable to han­dle the pres­sure. He has been scat­ter­ing excus­es and accu­sa­tions to the media for sev­er­al months now — as if this is already a stan­dard last phase of coach­ing agony, fol­lowed by an announce­ment of ter­mi­na­tion of coop­er­a­tion. For exam­ple, after some­thing like this, Xavi him­self decid­ed to leave Barcelona at the end of this sea­son. But if the Spaniard con­stant­ly saw the rea­sons for his fail­ures in the judges, then the Dutch­man saw them in injuries.

“In 18 months I was nev­er able to field my pre­ferred squad because the play­ers were injured,” says ten Hag. — The match against Man­ches­ter City at home last sea­son was the only one when I had a full choice of play­ers and could set up the desired com­bi­na­tions. In all the oth­er games there was always an injury aspect and we had to deal with that. Dam­age is nor­mal in foot­ball, but not to this extent. When you have as many injuries in key posi­tions as we have, you can’t achieve the results you want. This is my truth. Oth­ers may have their own truth, but I can­not waste my ener­gy on them.”

Head coach of Manchester United  Erik ten Hag and club midfielder Alejandro Garnacho. Ten Hag com­mit­ted sui­cide. And he beat Klopp. Kazan­sky’s col­umn is about mad­ness in Man­ches­ter

Okay, it sounds log­i­cal: Man­ches­ter Unit­ed real­ly have prob­lems with injuries, and this is espe­cial­ly true for the defen­sive line. But the 2023/24 sea­son, in terms of injuries to play­ers, turned out to be very dif­fi­cult for almost all top clubs. Car­lo Ancelot­ti at Real Madrid at the start of the cam­paign lost Thibaut Cour­tois, David Ala­ba and Eder Mil­i­tao — the main cen­tral defend­ers and goal­keep­er. Nacho, Anto­nio Rudi­ger and Fer­land Mendy were elim­i­nat­ed from time to time. At the recent cla­si­co, only Rüdi­ger was list­ed as a pro­file defend­er in the defen­sive line. The rest (Vazquez, Camavin­ga, Tshua­meni) are play­ers of oth­er posi­tions. And in goal is the recent third goal­keep­er Lunin.

As a result, Real is already prac­ti­cal­ly the cham­pi­on of Spain (11 points ahead with six rounds to go) and will com­pete in the semi-finals of the Cham­pi­ons League. It’s just that Ancelot­ti did not whim­per due to cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment rup­tures in three main play­ers, but reassem­bled the squad, and also pro­voked the wild progress of sev­er­al juniors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the reserve.

Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag on the podi­um.
Pho­to by Reuters

Anoth­er exam­ple is New­cas­tle, which is ahead of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed in the Pre­mier League in terms of addi­tion­al indi­ca­tors. Eddie Howe’s team had a hell­ish autumn with a meat grinder in the Pre­mier League, Cham­pi­ons League and League Cup in the con­di­tions of almost all the injured main squad — at the moment the “mag­pies” had 10 peo­ple unavail­able due to injuries. And the sec­ond most valu­able new­com­er in the his­to­ry of the club, San­dro Tonali, was banned for a year because of bets. The Mag­pies played around, found some genius­es in the youth team, but still suf­fered a streak of defeats. Over time, the black and white came to life — and now they are close to the top 5.

Denis Kazansky. Why is Eng­land destroy­ing tra­di­tions? Kazan­sky’s col­umn is about the reform of the old­est tour­na­ment in the world

Com­pared to the prob­lems of oth­ers, ten Hag’s talk about injuries looks pathet­ic. While every­one is silent­ly solv­ing prob­lems, the Dutch­man brought Man­ches­ter Unit­ed to the sta­tus of the worst defense among all teams in the top 5 leagues — in the first 11 games of the Pre­mier League in 2024, Andre Onan was shot at 253 times. The Man­cu­ni­ans even allowed base­ment team Coven­try to score three. It seems that in this sit­u­a­tion the fault lies sole­ly with the coach. More­over, the Red Dev­ils looked unsta­ble all sea­son, and not just dur­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly severe injury epi­dem­ic.

Ten Hag should not remain as Unit­ed coach next sea­son — under him the team will dete­ri­o­rate and lose char­ac­ter. The Dutch­man’s joy at his sec­ond Cup final in a row seems out of touch with real­i­ty — when every­thing is ter­ri­ble on all sides, he is hap­py with a strained vic­to­ry over Coven­try. I won­der what he will say after the final with Man City, to whom he lost in four of his five match­es at the helm of the Red Dev­ils. You should give results about your work after games with sim­i­lar oppo­nents, and not after bat­tles with weak­lings.

Eng­land. Pre­mier League. 29th round

April 24, 22:00. Old Traf­ford (Man­ches­ter)

Man­ches­ter Unit­ed


Sheffield Unit­ed