Because Erik ten Hag lacks the personality to inspire players to step up for him, Jamie Carragher compares the former Liverpool manager to Rafael Benitez.
After a challenging second season under the Dutch manager, United is presently seventh in the Premier League and has a tough challenge to earn a spot in the Champions League the following season.
The FA Cup is his sole remaining prize after the Red Devils were eliminated from both the Carabao Cup and Europe.
Carragher said that if Ten Hag isn’t using the proper tactics, “there isn’t much else” working in his favour. He likened Ten Hag’s personality to that of Benitez.
On the Sky Bet-sponsored Stick to Football podcast, Carragher said, “My concern regarding Ten Hag is that, based on my observation of him during the previous season, he somewhat reminded me of Benitez.”
“He lacked charm; he seemed uncomfortable and uninterested in news conferences. Benitez was the same way, but he was superior on the training ground.
“I felt that Ten Hag had strong game knowledge but lacked a strong personality during United’s successful season last year.
“There isn’t much else if he isn’t getting things on the pitch tactically, because I don’t see the players loving him or improving their game.”
Carragher also made an assumption about the possibility that Steve McClaren had an impact on United’s style of play.
“The reason I say that is because, when you talk about the play’s style, it’s probably the play that we all played,” he said.
Sometimes you could play against a tiny team at home or in Europe, where you know you’ll have a lot of possession of the ball. United has a sense of football from 20 years ago.
“In the first few games [of the previous season], they played Brentford and Brighton. David De Gea was having trouble getting the ball, so Christian Eriksen had to dive incredibly deep to retrieve it.
Ten Hag was after Frenkie de Jong, a genuine football player, but he turned that down and went on to have a fantastic season last year.
“We had a great run, we won a cup, we made it to another cup final, and we performed well in Europe, so I’m not sure if there was a particular thing that Steve McClaren, who was at Manchester United and also worked under Sir Alex Ferguson, said that this is how Manchester United plays.”
After United lost seven games at home in the first half of the season, Roy Keane indicated opponents no longer dreaded visiting Old Trafford.
Keane went on: “No matter what team you play for, you end up in No Man’s Land. United are missing something—a bit of belief, confidence, chopping, and changing where they are lacking goals.”
They are not an outstanding set-piece squad, they are not a pressing club, and they are not a physically gifted side that excels at dominating.
“They [the United players] appear to be persevering.” We praised them when they won the [Carabao] Cup final the year before, but Manchester City soundly defeated them in the FA Cup final.
This year’s situation is essentially identical: fifth place offers entry into the Champions League, and someone has drawn the FA Cup somewhat favourably.
“In football, you have to persevere no matter how hard things go. They seem to be playing games to survive. This season will be the same; they have a chance to win the FA Cup.