Ten Hag’s ‘miracle’ proven by ‘truth bomb trilogy’ and only four Man Utd starters are ‘there on merit’

·10-min read
Ten Hag embraces Fernandes Credit: Alamy
Ten Hag embraces Fernandes Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox leaps to the defence of Erik ten Hag, who is ‘working miracles’ at Man Utd. Also: Only four starters at Brighton were ‘there on merit’.

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Ten Hag ‘truth bombs’
Not sure why I should feel the need to defend the man, the myth, the legend that is Erik ten Hag but some of the negativity in the mailbox and comments sections have me somewhat irked. I shall do this in three parts, a trilogy of tantalising truth bombs.

Firstly, a reminder of the quagmire that was last season (giggity giggity). This time last season we were 6th on 54 points, 3 points off Spurs who were in 4th with a game in hand. We had just got humped by Liverpool (like we do), scraped a 3-2 win against bottom team Norwich and lost to Everton (17th). We went out of all of the cups early doors. Fast forward to this season and we are 4th on 63 points, 4 points ahead of Liverpool and have a game in hand. We have lost one home game all season (the very first) and have reached the final of both domestic cups, with one in the bag. Ask a supporter of any team below us if they would swap seasons with us and they would bite your hand off Luis Suarez-style.

ETH has a win rate of 66%, this is higher than any permanent manager in our history. Now, he has only been with us for one season so it’s a relatively small sample but it’s still impressive, given a lot of the tools (some literal) he has to work with are legacies from other (failed) managers. He has us playing good football most of the time and we’re a team that people enjoy watching again. Not 1000 crosses a game. Not possession for possession’s sake. Not only a counter-attacking team. We’re not the finished article, we don’t dominate possession in games away from home and keep the ball well enough, but we do a good job of that at home and so the foundations are there. We are making chances (Bruno is only behind KDB in big chances created, our xG is 1.75pg – City’s is 2.19) but we’re not clinical enough yet. We have also been missing our two first-choice CBs for a large portion of the season and have a patched-up defence. Give him a couple more transfer windows and a proper #9 and we’ll see where we are.

Ten Hag speaks on Man Utd Credit: Alamy
Ten Hag speaks on Man Utd Credit: Alamy

Finally, a comparison against Pep and Klopp’s first full seasons in charge (both always good benchmarks given they built title-winning teams). In 16/17 City were 4th after 33 games, 65 points and we were a point behind them in 5th (they finished 3rd, 3 points ahead of 5th placed Arsenal), they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and were dumped out early in the league cup. Liverpool were 3rd after 33 games, 66 points which was 6 points more than us in 5th but we had 2 games in hand (they finished 4th, 1 point ahead of Arsenal), dumped out early in the FA Cup and semis of the league cup.

In conclusion, the man has been working miracles to make us competitive on four fronts. Relax and enjoy the long weekend – Erik has got this.
Garey Vance, MUFC

READ MORE: Ten Hag’s nine Man Utd ‘mistakes’ exposed after ‘p*ss poor’ loss and Rashford is the ‘worst simulator’


Just four Man Utd starters ‘there on merit’
I have to say, De Zerbi can peddle this rubbish about deserving to win all he wants but it is just that: rubbish. In the FA Cup, Brighton didn’t put one past De Gea and, when all is said and done, if you don’t do that (or at least force the opponent to do that) then you simply cannot win a match.

I don’t dispute the fact that they played (much) better in both games, and we absolutely did not deserve to win either game in normal time; Brighton had more of the ball, used it better, and defended well on the very rare occasions that we attacked. But it really doesn’t matter how well you play if you don’t put the round thing in the netted thing – goals win games, and in over 210 minutes Brighton could not score one (until Luke Shaw decided to hand them one on a platter).

I don’t even have a complaint about us losing last night; as much as Brighton failed to convert any chances before the penalty, I did feel that we deserved to lose with the way we approached the game. This approach of “try not to lose” is all well and good but you absolutely cannot lose when you play that way; if you lose when really trying to win then fair enough, but to show as little attacking ambition as we did last night and still fail to come away with a point is unforgivable. We tried to stifle Brighton’s attacks and play on the counter but I felt like we forgot to do the second part and just ended up having to defend for most of the 100 minutes. This is something that Ten Hag needs to improve fast.

I would put some of it down to the availability of the squad but even that doesn’t ring totally true because we have only managed one away win against the top 12 all season, but the squad is still so obviously lacking depth and it is a huge problem. Out of the players to start last night, I would say only Shaw, Casemiro, Fernandes, and Rashford are there on merit, i.e., if everyone was fit then they would still be starting. The rest, for me, are either only there because the actual first choice is unavailable (Lindelof), or because the alternative is even worse than they are (De Gea, for example). Even with injured players returning, you could only really add Varane and Martinez to that first list. For me, the jury is still out on Antony, as much as Ten Hag likes him, while Eriksen is an obvious starter but one we need to manage carefully.

Anyway, that’s my two-penneth. We need 9 more points to secure Champions League, and we have 3 more home games left so hopefully we can get those points in the home games and not have to rely on winning away, which apparently is not something we can do this season.
Ted, Manchester


‘Well Spursy’
Hi, Happy Friday

Ndombele has just won the league with Napoli. Fair play to him.

Napoli do not want to sign him permanently. They won’t pay Spurs half what Spurs paid for him, despite him winning the league.

Spurs don’t want him either and are considering ripping his contract up.

They’ll probably do the same with Lo Celso. Messi’s wing man for Argentina.

Did I mention that Ndombele just won the Italian league?

Peak Spursy.
Andrew, Woodford Green


READ MORE: Ranking all 40(!) Premier League managers this season: Lampard is in the bottom five…twice


Refuting ‘Ten Hag’s mistakes’
In response to Ash’s moan about Ten Hag’s mistakes. Jesus man, how half-empty can your glass get? Get a grip man, is there anything in your life you don’t moan about?

Ten Hag has done shedloads right this year, seems to have turned the team/squad around, given it a bit of backbone, and got us playing better football. Added to that, he’s clearly improved Rashford, ditto Shaw, AWB, Dalot, he’s brought in Garnacho and Pellistri a little bit, got a very decent tune out of De Gea, and even Sancho has pitched in at times. Sure, we got hit by a few injuries in key places, but I’d personally prefer to try and win the Europa League than not play our best centre-backs. He’s had one transfer window – which he did very well out of. He dealt with the Ronaldo situation that left him without a number 9. Exactly that – we’ve played almost a whole season without a decent number 9, and we’re still in a good position to make the top 4, and you’re moaning?!?

Perhaps better to channel your energy to “supporting” the club and its manager. I’m pretty sure if you rewound 9 months, and asked yourself then if you were offered 4 points ahead of 5th with a game in hand and 5 games left, and a trophy even if it is the worst of the four, you’d have jumped at it…
Ben (praying that 4th place holds up. Brighton are really, really good to watch)


Man City > Hulk Hogan’
Dear Graham

Obviously, you won’t remember City’s title wins because you were nowhere near a title challenge, an irrelevance, in fact, so there’s no reason you would particularly remember because there’s nothing for Arsenal fans to remember.

Aside from the most famous Premier League title win of all time, of course.

Oh, and the 100-point title win which had never been achieved before.

Ah, there’s the title we won when Gerrard slipped against Chelsea.

Almost forgot about the epic battle with Liverpool when we just about pipped them by one point, I spent pretty much the whole season holding my breath then.

Then there’s the season when City completed the classic English treble, again never been done before.

Hopefully, this season will complete a treble win.

But, having said all that, I have the grace to remember Arsenal’s Invincible season. Possibly because you entitled bunch never stop banging on about it despite the evidence that that team played to win that record, not the title itself. Just like Liverpool and United fans, you live in the past….and you still felt the need to write about Hulk Hogan.

Honestly, your letter smacks of “well, I’ve not been published in the Football365 mailbox for a few hours, I’d better get something/anything in. I know, I’ll dig City out, that’s not been done for ages”.

Good luck for next season, you must be hoping you’re relevant again.
Levenshulme Blue


Graham Simons doesn’t care about City. He’s indifferent to them.

Couldn’t tell you anything about them, that’s how indifferent he is.

Even this season, when Arsenal probably should have won the league, at the point they were 2-0 up against Liverpool, and no other competitions to distract them, he’s still non-plussed about the outcome.

It doesn’t even register with him. Nah. Honestly.

He doesn’t even think the league can continue; such is the level of his, and everyone’s, disinterest.

It’s childish, I know, but the phrase ‘cry harder’ really does spring to mind.
Wexford Blue.


Arteta ‘earning his place’
I’m a bit late to this, but this line made me laugh out loud at work:

‘Arteta has earned his place in the list of managers Sam Allardyce thinks he’s as good as, and there’s no higher praise than that.’
Robert, Birmingham.

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