PREMIER LEAGUE

How Erik Ten Hag performed as Manchester United manager on football manager

A retro look at how Erik Ten Hag performed as Manchester United boss in the premium simulation game football manager.

Erik Ten Hag's Manchester United journey on FM21.

English club Manchester United has appointed Dutchman Erik Ten Hag as the latest to attempt to rebuild the club and its past glory after several tries since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Ten Hag, 52, has put pen to paper on a three-year contract that will see him try to restore this sleeping giant.

As United fans have come to call and know him, ETH aka Cryptoball arrives at Old Trafford with a lovely reputation following a largely successful spell at the Dutch club, Ajax Amsterdam.

At the club, he played a brand of football that the Red Devils are hoping and keeping their fingers crossed they get to see under his stewardship.

But while so many unprinted names have been used to describe players at Manchester United for some time now, how will ETH perform at the club? What decisions will he make and what formation will he deploy?

I decided to find out some of these things with the help of football manager, FM21, with a focus on his first two years at the club.

  • Transfers

It was quite a busy summer for Erik and United as they signed a total of nine (9) players for 123m in his first season - no, you’re not dreaming.

Andre Almeida (850k), defenders - Anel Ahmedhovic (4.8m), Marcao (11.5m), midfielders James Ward-Prowse (31m), Lucas Fernandes (3.6m), the popular Gabriel Barbosa (13m), Marcel Sarbitzer (29m) and Nikola Vlasic (19m).

In terms of INs, there were hardly any notable transfers to talk about as the focus was on the academy loans. However, new man, Lucas was sent out on loan.

  • The Season

After an unbeaten start to life with the Reds following six wins, a draw and just a goal conceded in seven matches in the preseason, ETH’s United took that form to the Premier League with back-to-back wins against Sheffield United and Leicester City.

United won their next game in the Carabao Cup before back-to-back defeats to fierce rivals, Liverpool and Arsenal.

The defeats to those two signalled a sign of what was to come in the big games as ETH’s Red Devils struggled against the top six (6) and only managed a draw against Arsenal despite facing the Gunners more than three times.

ETH used the 4-2-3-1 formation and retained Harry Maguire as captain - I am sure United fans will frown at this point.

In terms of how the season went, ETH managed to get the club back into the Champions League after a third-place finish, eight points behind the champions, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

United suffered 6 defeats at Old Trafford, won 19 and drew three. Away from home, it was 9 defeats, 14 wins and three draws.

  • Best run

United under ETH had their best run between December 26 to January 30, when they record nine successive wins.

  • Worst Run

February 2-27 saw the Red Devils win just once in seven matches, suffering four defeats. Barcelona, Manchester City and Arsenal account for three of those losses.

  • The Cups

It was a season to forget for ETH and the Red Devils in the Cup competitions.

Arsenal defeated United in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and repeated the feat against them in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

In the Champions League, it was FC Barcelona who did the damage in the round of 16 as United’s struggles against the big boys continued.

So, ETH failed to win anything with United in his first season but got the Red Devils back into the Champions League.

  • Transfers 

The second season kicked off with some interesting business in the market for outgoings as ETH only brought in just three players, two of them on loan.

INs: Khavarn William (loan), Tete (Shakhtar. 19.25m) and Liam

OUTs

Now, it gets very interesting as ETH finally weeded off so many players including some academy stars.

Mejbri Hannibal Millwall), Amad Diallo (Cagliari), and Anthony Elanga (Sunderland) were all sent out on loan. United didn’t let Jesse Lingard leave as well but allowed him to join Aston Villa on loan.

Fred (15.5m), Tahith Chong (8m), Nemanja Matic (6.25m), Alex Telles (19.75m) and Dylan Levitt (425k to Montreal Impact).

  • The Season - Maguire stripped

Like in his first season, ETH’s Red Devils had an impeccable preseason in his second, winning all six matches this time. But the biggest decision going into the season was Bruno Fernandes named as the new captain.

United took the preseason form into the Premier League as well with back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Liverpool giving hope of a better season ahead.

Well, it turned out to be a better season for the Reds as they went on to secure another Champions League spot after another third-place finish, tied on points with Liverpool in second and ten points behind winners Chelsea.

  • The Cups

ETH’s United went a step further in the cups in his second season, going all the way to lift the Champions League superbly. But in the Carabao and FA Cups, their journeys ended in the fourth and third rounds respectively.

The season ended with ETH’s United winning 20 matches at home, 4 defeats and 3 draws. Away, the Reds won 12, lost 9 and drew 6.

  • Best Run

In his second season, United had their best run under ETH in December again, 4th to February 19, going unbeaten in 16 matches, winning 9 of them. They followed that up with another nine consecutive wins after Manchester City ended the initial run.

  • Worst Run

Four defeats in six matches around October threatened to leave United’s season in total disarray.

The Players

While many United fans don’t like them, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were still the main players for goals and assists for Ten Hag.

By the second season, Martial emerged top scorer with 21 goals, while Fernandes added 17 goals and 16 assists.

Meanwhile, ETH signings left a lot to be designed with just Sabitzer, Ward-Prowse and Tete showing good signs alongside the CBs.

Tete contributed 12 goals in 29 matches, Sabi with 17 goals/assists in 31 and JWP with 12 assists in 50 games.

Also, Maguire was the mainstay in defense alongside Marcao, while Brandon Williams and AWB shared the RB roles.

After two seasons at the club, he managed to get Manchester United back into the Champions League, winning a single trophy, the big ears.

Erik’s signings left a lot to be desired. Two of them, Lucas and Anel were later sent out on loan, while Vlasic and Orsic struggled for game time at the club.

He also failed to sign any real strikers and did very poorly in domestic competitions by the end of his second season.

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