Erik ten Hag got himself into a big mistake Manchester United predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made last year
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Man United boss Erik ten Hag has repeated a mistake his predecessor made last year
Erik ten Hag was left disappointed following Man United’s loss to Real Sociedad
Erik ten Hag has already heaped the pressure on his players at Manchester United just weeks into the new season.
The scenes at Old Trafford on Thursday night as the Reds fell to a disappointing 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad in their opening Europa League game may have been slightly alien to the former Ajax manager, but they certainly weren’t to the United faithful. In the Red Devils’ first Europa League match since losing the 2021 final against Villarreal, Ten Hag’s side fell to a 1-0 loss as Brais Mendez converted a penalty following a contentious handball decision against Lisandro Martinez.
It came just under a year after the side, then managed by Ten Hag’s predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, fell to a 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in their opening Champions League group stage encounter. On that occasion, United’s European campaign got off to a nightmare start after Jordan Siebatcheu netted a stoppage-time strike to earn Young Boys a famous 2-1 victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 10 men in Switzerland, where Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first-half sending off ultimately led to the side’s capitulation.
While the loss to Sociedad was very different to the Young Boys debacle, the result last year heaped pressure on Solskjaer’s side for the rest of the group stages. The wild scenes of jubilation in their following Champions League group stage encounter against Villarreal after Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winner were born out of a sense of relief as much as anything else and heading into their second Europa League group stage game against Sheriff on Thursday, United now face similar pressure.
Ten Hag has insisted United will be taking the Europa League seriously this season and he and his squad will now know they really cannot afford another slip-up against the Moldovan outfit, particularly since the winners of the tournament earn an automatic spot in next season’s Champions League. A tricky away tie adds a further element of risk for United, who had the Old Trafford crowd to get them over the line against Villarreal a year ago.
While Ronaldo’s 95th-minute winner papered over a lot of cracks that night, Ten Hag’s first transfer window with the club has seen a lot of those same issues having now been addressed. Nevertheless, United’s players know they will have to put in a performance on Thursday night to give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying from the group stages and be in with a shot of ultimately returning to Europe’s top table.
His ability to manage the situation could even go a long way towards helping Ten Hag succeed where Solskjaer failed as he aims to bring some much-needed silverware back to Old Trafford.
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