Erik ten Hag’s criticism of Pep Guardiola bodes well for Manchester United

While Erik ten Hag exuded an enveloping positive aura in his first press conference, history shows that the Dutchman can also be ruthless in his trials.

Manchester United fans have seen before that Ten Hag is not afraid to voice criticism like other professionals. He had watched as former Ajax star Donny van de Beek was ousted first by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick.

He refused to remain neutral on the issue, saying United had committed a “mortal sin” over their treatment of the midfielder. Their new boss once worked with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola when he was in charge of Bayern Munich, but now he becomes his rival and foe across the red-blue divide.

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In 2020, Ten Hag praised the Catalan manager for his work at City but didn’t fail to point out a mistake his former overhead made in his debut season. Speaking to Voetbal International, he said: “Only once in his career has Pep made a mistake – in his first year at Manchester City, when he totally underestimated the power and speed of the Premier League.

“He realized you can’t play the football he loves without having some physically strong athletes – so he brought them in.”

He added: “So he’s not a stubborn coach. Yes, he is stubborn in his philosophy, but not in execution. And that makes him the best. Nobody will ever forget Guardiola.”

“He’s won so many trophies before – but it’s all about how his teams play. Guardiola only wants to win games with beautiful football, just like his teacher Johan Cruyff.”

Aside from the fact that he addressed a City manager, United fans will be delighted to hear these comments ahead of Ten Hag’s Premier League debut. He recognized even then that top-flight football in England is different from football on the continent.

Ten Hag has identified a mistake so many great managers make when they first arrive which means he will be able to tailor his philosophy and recruitment accordingly with the ebb and flow of the Premier League. As a result, his “embedding process” could be shorter than expected, meaning United’s recovery process can move faster.

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