We simulated how long it took Erik ten Hag to win the Premier League with Manchester United

Erik ten Hag faces a huge task of rebuilding Manchester United, starting with a crucial summer transfer window ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Ten Hag saw the end of United’s worst Premier League season in years after the Reds had collected just 58 points from 38 games with zero goal difference. And there will be a major squad makeover as several players are set to leave this summer including Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba.

The absence of Champions League football will slightly hamper United’s transfer plans so a return to the Premier League title fight may have to wait a few years while Ten Hag rebuilds the club. The players staying at United will need to quickly adapt to the 52-year-old’s tactical system and style of play, something Ralf Rangnick’s side have not been able to do.

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So how long will it take Ten Hag to rebuild United and win the Premier League title? To take a look, we’ve simulated the future season after season in Football Manager 2022, with the 52-year-old in charge of United until the Reds win the Premier League.

To set up this simulation, we appointed Ten Hag as United manager and appointed Ralf Rangnick as United’s director of football when he stepped into his adviser role at the club after Ten Hag’s arrival as manager. We simulated every season until United successfully won the Premier League.

This is Ten Hag’s game profile in Football Manager 2022.



Erik ten Hag's in-game profile on Football Manager 2022.
Erik ten Hag’s in-game profile on Football Manager 2022.

Former Ajax manager has amazing coaching, mental and knowledge attributes including ability to work with young players (18), adaptability (16), discipline (16), human resource management (17), assessment of player potential (16) and tactical knowledge (16). Ten Hag practices a vertical tiki-taka playstyle and favors a broad 4-2-3-1 formation.

The 52-year-old tends to defend standard situations with coverage, plays from the defense when in possession of the ball, relies on intensive counter-pressing and gives his players creative freedom. Ten Hag often chooses not to tell his team to sit back and defend the lead, resulting in a more offensive style while not relying on set pieces or early tactical changes in games.

Man United’s 2022/23 season is simulated under Ten Hag



Manchester United finished fifth in the Premier League.
Manchester United finished fifth in the Premier League.

In Ten Hag’s debut season, the Reds miss fifth place in the Premier League by 10 points in our simulation. United were able to improve their position in the league to fifth place, moving above Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side and significantly improving their goal difference and points tally.

Ten Hag’s side have performed well in the three cup competitions they have been involved in, reaching the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and Europa League. In the FA Cup, United were eliminated from the competition after a fifth round defeat to rivals Man City.



United's top performers in the 2022/23 season.
United’s top performers in the 2022/23 season.

Ten Hag was heavily backed as United made several signings in the 52-year-old’s first summer, with Duvan Zapata making the biggest impact of all the newcomers as the Colombian striker scored 16 goals in 40 games in all competitions. Bruno Fernandes has been the club’s key performer by far, having improved significantly compared to his 2021/22 season as the Portuguese playmaker has scored 17 goals and provided 22 assists in 49 games.

Jadon Sancho passed Fernandes to average the highest game rating at 7.40 in all competitions as the England international blossomed under Ten Hag, scoring 10 goals and registering 15 assists. Marcus Rashford showed signs of reviving good form but was mainly used as a rotation option, recording 10 goals contributions from 21 starts and 13 substitutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal scoring ability showed little sign of waning as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner netted 17 goals in 38 starts. At the end of the 2022/23 season, Football Manager 2022 compiled a best overall Man United XI based on performances, stats and other metrics.

Here’s what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2022/23 season, as predicted by Football Manager 2022:



United's best XI of the 2022/23 season.
United’s best XI of the 2022/23 season.

Full Best United XI (4-2-3-1): DeGea; Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Shaw; Garner, Fernandes; Sancho, Ronaldo, Rashford; zapata

Ten Hag gave the youth a chance by bringing hot contender James Garner into the starting line-up alongside Fernandes. Ronaldo slipped into the role of centre-forward behind Zapata, who started as a striker, with the Netherlands United manager continuing to rely on the quality and experience of the Portuguese superstar.

Man United’s 2023/24 season is simulated under Ten Hag



Manchester United finished fourth in the Premier League.
Manchester United finished fourth in the Premier League.

The Reds finished fourth in the Premier League the following season, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since the 2020–21 season. Ten Hag’s side improved their position in the table to fourth ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, despite taking a point less than in the 2022/23 season.

United finished 21 points behind champions Liverpool but just three behind Man City and Tottenham as the Reds continued to improve on goal difference. In cup competitions, United finished runners-up in both the Carabao Cup and Europa League but could only reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.



United's top performers in the 2023/24 season.
United’s top performers in the 2023/24 season.

United signed Ajax wingers Antony, Mauro Icardi, Samuele Ricci, Tanguy Nianzou and Denzel Dumfries ahead of Ten Hag’s second season at Old Trafford. Antony came in and was the standout player, scoring 17 goals and registering 15 assists.

Bruno Fernandes once again impressed with 13 goals and 14 assists for United in all competitions, while Icardi equaled Ronaldo’s goalscoring record of 12 in all competitions. Ricci proved a brilliant signing, scoring nine goals and registering seven assists from defensive midfield.

At the end of the 2023/24 season, Football Manager 2022 compiled a best overall Man United XI based on performances, statistics and other metrics. Here’s what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2023/24 season, as predicted by Football Manager 2022:



United's best XI of the 2023/24 season.
United’s best XI of the 2023/24 season.

Full Best United XI (4-2-3-1): DeGea; Dumfries, Nianzou, Varane, Shaw; Ricci, Fernandes; Anthony, Cunha, Sancho; Icardi.

New signings Icardi, Ricci, Dumfries and Nianzou are all among United’s top eleven for the 2023/24 season. The Reds signed Matheus Cunha in the January transfer window as the Brazilian added quality and more offensive threat to Ten Hag’s side in the second half of the season.

Man United’s 2024/25 season is simulated under Ten Hag

Ten Hag’s side managed to win the Premier League title in the Dutchman’s third season after beating Liverpool on goal difference, although both teams finished on 89 points. The Reds finished the season with a +57 goal difference, having lost just three games in their 38 league games.



Manchester United won the Premier League.
Manchester United won the Premier League.

United failed to repeat their success against Jurgen Klopp’s side in the FA Cup final as the Reds lost 2-1 after Luis Diaz scored twice to nullify Antony’s early opener. Ten Hag’s side made it to the quarter-finals in both the Carabao Cup and the Champions League, but there was still work to be done if United were to challenge on all fronts throughout the season.



Manchester United's top performers in the 2024/25 season.
Manchester United’s top performers in the 2024/25 season.

United signed Harry Kane, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eder Militao in Ten Hag’s third season in charge as the return of Champions League football to Old Trafford attracted some of Europe’s finest talent to the club. Marcus Rashford filled the void left by Jadon Sancho after he left for Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo retired at the age of 39.

Rashford scored 17 goals and recorded six assists and the highest game rating average of 7.52 in all competitions, while United’s main forward Kane scored 15 goals and recorded seven assists. Bruno Fernandes increased his performances with 23 goals and 16 assists.

Tchouameni had an impressive debut season at Old Trafford, recording 16 assists from a defensive midfield position. Antony continued to thrive under Ten Hag, scoring 23 goals and registering 11 assists from the right wing.

At the end of the 2024/25 season, Football Manager 2022 compiled a best overall Man United XI based on performances, statistics and other metrics. Here’s what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2024/25 season, as predicted by Football Manager 2022:



Manchester United's best XI of the 2024/25 season.
Manchester United’s best XI of the 2024/25 season.

Full Best United XI (4-2-3-1): DeGea; Dumfries, Militao, Nianzou, Shaw; Tchouameni, Fernandes; Antony, Cunha, Rashford; Kane.

After a big summer of changes, new signings Kane, Militao and Tchouameni were all among United’s best eleven for the 2024/25 season. The Reds now had one of the strongest starting formations and squads in Europe, with the likes of Varane, Ricci, Maguire and Youssoufa Moukoko on the bench offering significant quality at depth.

Overall, our simulation suggests it could take Ten Hag around three years to win the Premier League with Manchester United. The 52-year-old was heavily supported in the transfer market during his tenure at Old Trafford and his tactics and ability to develop players saw United return to the top of English football faster than many expected and a historic 21st title in the top flight sealed the Reds.

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