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Manchester United: What We Learned from Ten Hag's First Press Conference

23 May 2022 11:57:27 EST
Ten Hag is looking to bring league titles back to Old Trafford

Erik Ten Hag has been unveiled as Manchester United's new manager - and the confident Dutchman says he's ready to embrace the challenge he faces at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag has swapped Amsterdam for Manchester after leaving Ajax following a successful five-year spell in charge and, speaking at his first press conference with the faded Premier League giants, the 52-year-old was upbeat about the future as he sets about restoring the club to its former glories.

Ten Hag becomes United's fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 - a telling symptom of an ailing club that has struggled to compete with big rivals Manchester City and Liverpool in recent years and on Sunday ended a fairly dire campaign in sixth place with their lowest-ever points total in the Premier League - just 58 - following a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.

A big rebuilding job

Much has been said and written about the huge rebuilding job Ten Hag has on his hands and he made it clear in his first media briefing that he will first assess the players he's inherited before deciding who stays and who goes.

It's widely believed, though, that at least eight first-teamers could be on their way this summer and when specifically asked about who could move on, he gave a somewhat open answer, saying he was still "in the process of analysing" his squad but, revealingly, admitted "the plan is huge and we only have a short time". As he spoke, it suggested he knew the size of the task.

Like most new managers who come into any club, the experienced former Utrecht boss was keen to send a message to many of the current squad that they will get a chance to impress and he was right to point out that, despite the warranted criticism they've received this season, a largely similar group of players did manage to finish second in the Premier League in the previous campaign.

He told reporters: "I'm looking forward to working with these players. The season before, this squad was second in the league, so there is huge potential. I think if we improve, if we work with them, I think we can get out more than what was the result from this season."

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Immediate title challenge unlikely

Ten Hag, although positive over the impact he feels he can make, is unlikely to envisage a title challenge in his first season in charge. The Red Devils are 34.00 to win the Premier League next term but 2.50 to return to the top four - a much more realistic target for the new man at the helm.

United, who are 1.28 to finish in the top six again next season, have just finished 35 points behind title-winners and neighbours City and 34 behind traditional north-west foes Liverpool.

They lost 4-1 and 2-0 to Pep Guardiola's City and 5-0 and 4-0 to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool this term to underline just how big the gap has grown to. However, Ten Hag was keen to say he believes his United can compete with the top two as soon as possible. He spoke about his admiration for both teams and their respective lauded coaches, but warned "you will always see an era can come to an end".

Ten Hag will hope his new era ushers in a dawning period of success for a club that are the record 13-time Premier League winners but one that has arguably now slipped to its lowest ebb in the modern age.

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