Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has admitted that standards had fallen at the club prior to this season, with the team lacking the kind of ‘spirit’ that underpinned their success in the past.
Ten Hag took over a United squad during the summer that hasn’t mounted a serious Premier League title challenge since last winning it in 2013, nor has even won a trophy of any kind since 2017.
Things got off to the worst possible start in the Premier League with back-to-back defeats to Brighton and Brentford, making Ten Hag the first United boss to lose both of his first two games in charge in 101 years. At one stage, the Dutchman admitted his team are ‘not that good’, but steady progress and improvement has been made overall.
“I knew from the start it’s an exciting process but also a difficult process because I think Manchester United was far away from the standards of what we need to be top,” Ten Hag said.
“If you’re talking about the spirit, there is one thing that I notice here, when you see the history of Manchester United, Manchester United won in the history a lot of titles, a lot of trophies and it was always by team, team spirit and fighting spirit.
“It’s the team spirit, the team fighting, that was the base and that is in the culture of Manchester United. That is one of the things I wanted to bring back and we are in the right direction.”
Listen now to 90min’s Manchester United podcast, The Promised Land, with Scott Saunders& Rob Blanchette. In the latest episode they discuss the weekend defeat to Aston Villa, where Cristiano Ronaldo & Donny van de Beek should play, plus look ahead to January.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United sides had a reputation for never giving in, which ultimately brought the club the biggest prize of all when they fought back from a goal down to win the 1999 Champions League final and complete the treble – an achievement still unmatched by any English club.
But last season in particular, United seemed so drained of belief and confidence that any setback in games would too often result in collapses or settling.