Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has kickstarted his era in the Old Trafford dugout in fine fashion. The Dutchman has won three out of his four pre-season games, with his team netting thirteen, and only conceding four.
The manager’s new-look team has caught the eye with their improved performances, hallmarked by increased possession, winning the ball back quickly and creation of wave after wave of attacks.
There have been visible signs of the manager’s influence and his philosophy, in what will encourage many United fans.
Reportedly, one of the things the 52-year-old has been keen to change at the Theatre of Dreams is the players’ attitudes and behavior, something the dressing room was accused of lacking last season, as the club finished in a disastrous sixth position, just enough for a Europa League spot.
The Athletic reports that the manager has adopted a ruthless approach to rule-breaking.
“Part of Ten Hag’s strategy to management is strict discipline and when players err, the consequences are significant.”
Such has been the extent to which the manager has been willing to enforce his rules within the squad that one United player was reportedly dropped from his starting line-up after he twice turned up late to a team meeting.
The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell and Andy Mitten report, “During the 18-day trip, one player was twice late for team meetings. Ten Hag had been planning to use him in a game but dropped him by way of punishment, a reminder to everyone in the squad that punctuality is important.”
During pre-season, the only first-team omissions from the starting eleven who were not reported injured were left-back Luke Shaw, who was dropped against Crystal Palace, and his English counterpart Marcus Rashford, who started on the bench against Melbourne Victory. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the culprit was one of those two.
The manager is reportedly keen on punctuality and believes lateness to be a symptom of declining standards which are directly translated onto the pitch.
At the club, it is said that the Dutchman’s arrival and his punitive measures also extend to staff who turn up late to meetings, training sessions, and team meals.
The players are also fined as punishment, as part of Ten Hag’s new regime which also includes a ban on alcoholic beverages during match weeks.
There have been a number of senior players, including Bruno Fernandes and David de Gea, who have publicly welcomed the new changes. The United goalkeeper recently remarked, “Of course, you cannot be late. People who work in their jobs, you cannot be late. So I think you cannot be late for training, we cannot be late for the meetings. That’s life, you have to be on time and professional.”
The manager is clearly keen on raising standards within the club. It falls onto the players to respond appropriately and rise to the challenge.