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Remarkable Erik ten Hag rant shows Liverpool how lucky it is

Erik ten Hag, Manager of Manchester United, leads his side out prior to the Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


If this was Erik ten Hag's sign-off from Manchester United, it was a defiant last stand. Manchester United overcame the odds to beat its cross-city rivals, ending its season by claiming the FA Cup.

This is Ten Hag's second piece of silverware in his time at Old Trafford. But it still appears unlikely that he will be in the hot seat next season, with a remarkable rant ahead of kick-off indicative of a man who expects to be leaving his role.

Ten Hag seemingly turned on the club's fans for having 'no sense of reality', while also criticizing the level of the squad. Additionally, he underlined Manchester United's ever-increasing wait for the Premier League title, now into its second decade — having mocked Liverpool for so long, supporters are finding out how quickly that can sneak up.

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"Manchester United won the league for the last time in 2013, 11 years ago," Ten Hag said. "But still they expect us to win every game while competing at the top. This club is not ready for that.

"We were supposed to start building something and we made the first steps last year, but then you find out how big this club is and that nobody is ever satisfied. Within the club people were satisfied, but outside the club there was noise by saying I won only the Carabao Cup, lost the [previous] FA Cup Final and came third."

The manner of the win over Manchester City should have served to underscore a bright future for Manchester United, with goals coming from teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo. But the FA Cup triumph feels like little more than a port in a storm, in a season which Ten Hag bluntly admitted before the game has been 'c**p'.

In a sense, he's probably right to feel a little hard done-by in terms of the media narrative around his team. Bringing through young players, he has been in and around the Champions League places for two seasons running, delivering silverware on both occasions. It's more than his most recent predecessors have achieved. But time and time again, he has showed himself incapable of fostering the positivity he craves.

Ten Hag can hardly expect the media to eulogize over his team's progress when he himself is quick to criticize it. And for all the struggles this season, there have been any number of moments that could and should have been turning points, where late winners have offered the potential to ignite a spark — yet the fire has remained unlit.

He got his tactics spot on against Manchester City, but being a manager is about more than that. It goes to show just how lucky Liverpool has been to have Jürgen Klopp, a genuine tactical visionary in his own right but also perhaps the best motivator and man-manager of a generation.

And in Arne Slot, Liverpool looks to have found another coach who knows how to engage and energize a fanbase. His Feyenoord send-off is testament to that.

Tipped for success by his compatriot — amid a pointed remark that he will be inheriting a better squad — Slot may nonetheless not win as much silverware as Ten Hag in his first couple of seasons. In English football, two trophies is relatively good going. But crucially, Liverpool can be relatively confident that he will at least have everyone pulling in the same direction.

If Ten Hag is to depart, he will technically be doing so on a high note. But you'd be hard-pressed to realize it from the cloud of negativity he leaves in his wake — it takes more than results to 'build something', and Liverpool has been blessed with one of the best architects around. Manchester United may now be on the lookout for one of its own, but with Slot now ensconced at Anfield, it's already a step behind.