There is a rare atmosphere of tranquillity at Manchester United. Five wins from eight games in all competitions heading into the international break is respectable but more important for Erik ten Hag is the lack of noise surrounding Mauricio Pochettino. Players and fans believe Ten Hag is the man to lead the club forward.
Beyond results and silverware, Ten Hag’s big challenge this season was to quell talk of Pochettino and other “potential United managers”. Following the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United’s search for a new permanent manager was long and protracted. Antonio Conte, Brendan Rodgers and Massimiliano Allegri were all linked to the role before Pochettino and Ten Hag emerged as the two leading candidates.
Ten Hag was appointed on April 21, but questions remained as to whether he was the right man for a difficult job. Had this international break occurred after the second week of this season — as it usually does — Ten Hag might have been in crisis mode. United’s 4-0 defeat to Brentford drew brief comparisons to Frank de Boer’s disastrous stint at Crystal Palace in 2017 when the Dutchman was dismissed after losing the first four Premier League games of the season. But 52-year-old Ten Hag has steadied the ship and United look to be sailing through calmer waters.
Ten Hag’s decision to make his players run 13.8km each following the chastening defeat at Brentford was bold but he is thought to have won the respect of everyone involved by joining in with the emergency exercise.