sport news IAN LADYMAN: The Manchester United job undresses you, dismantles you and picks ... trends now
Results got David Moyes sacked at Manchester United almost a decade ago but it was the eyes that had long since given the game away. When you looked at Moyes – on a touchline, in a press conference, on TV interviews – you could see doubt, uncertainty and anxiety staring back.
Moyes was a good manager before that time in his life and has become one once again. But the United job can do that to you. It can undress you, dismantle you and pick you slowly to pieces from the inside. It happened to Moyes and it may well be happening to Erik ten Hag right now.
United’s regression under Ten Hag has been startling this season. His players look like they are riding an elevator with the cables cut. Plunging down to the darkness.
Against Manchester City on Sunday they were bad. We expected that. On Wednesday against Newcastle’s second team in the Carabao Cup they were so wretched I drove home asking myself if I had witnessed anything quite like it in the decade that has followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
I remember Moyes watching a shoot-out in the same competition against Sunderland at Old Trafford from a position standing behind his unused players and staff on the touchline. It was as if he couldn’t bring himself to watch. United lost.
Manchester United's regression under Erik ten Hag this season has been startling
I remember Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rabble at Watford. He left the post in tears the very next day
I remember endless humiliations for men like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho against Liverpool and City. I remember Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rabble at Watford. He left the post in tears the very next day.
But there was something almost uniquely feeble and cack-handed about Ten Hag’s United on Wednesday – something so complicit and reeking of self-harm – that it may well have been the worst and if the club’s Dutch manager does not find something within himself to change things soon then he will be sacked. There is no doubt that.
At all clubs there comes a point where absolutely anything or anyone is better than the man in charge and at Old Trafford that point may well arrive at a speed that simply would not have seemed possible even one month ago.
I make no apologies for turning tail on this issue. I have previously been resolute in my support of Ten Hag, citing last season’s progress on the field and indeed the decisiveness shown in handling Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho with clarity and certainty. But things have changed fast.
Ten Hag looked like a rag being tossed in a storm on Wednesday night and his post-match offerings were no more convincing or believable than had been his team’s football.
But there was something almost uniquely feeble and cack-handed about Ten Hag’s United as they were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Eddie Howe's (right) Newcastle on Wednesday
Ten Hag should stay for now. Categorically, he must. He deserves the opportunity to get something approaching his first team on the field. Let us judge him properly when players like Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw and Rafael Varane are fit, ready and able.
But let’s also allow ourselves to look hypothetically into a future in which Ten Hag has gone and ask ourselves this question: Who on earth would wish to come in his stead? And why?
It’s hard to believe I am thinking this, never mind writing it, but Manchester United is now a football club that comes with a health warning. Not just to players but to managers.
The playing squad is not good enough and, given the age of some, is getting worse. The ownership is a mess. The Glazers don’t care about the football while Jim Ratcliffe’s incoming INEOS group will attempt to take control of the football on the back of a 25 per cent shareholding. Good luck with that.
I supported Ten Hag as he showed decisiveness in handling Cristiano Ronaldo (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) with clarity and certainty
But things have changed. Ten Hag looked like a rag being tossed in a storm on Wednesday
Ten Hag isn't the only issue. The ownership is a mess. The Glazers don’t care about the football