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Was FA Cup Glory Ten Hag’s Final Farewell?

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Erik ten Hag

If Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is going, then after the finest moment of his time in charge, with the FA Cup being lifted in front of thousands of ecstatic red hordes at Wembley, is quite the way to go.

 

 

Ten Hag spent the build-up to this final showpiece against all-conquering arch-rivals Manchester City shrouded in speculation that this would be his final game, a dead manager walking, simply waiting for new United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe to give him the final shove over the precipice.

Manchester City were here to inflict the last humiliation on him before departure, to deliver the final blow and see a beleaguered figure on his way.

Instead, in one of those delicious twists sport so often delivers, Ten Hag produced a tactical masterclass to beat Manchester City 2-1, the Dutchman hoisted off his feet in wild celebration at the final whistle by warrior defender Lisandro Martinez before moving to share that rarest of experiences, offering the hand of consolation to a beaten Pep Guardiola.

The scale of United’s achievement when the pressure was at its highest for the manager and players is that this was City’s first loss, apart from a penalty shootout against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final, since they lost at Aston Villa on 6 December.

Whether this makes any difference to Old Trafford’s decision makers, led by Ratcliffe, remains to be seen but for all his suffering and the criticism he has had – much of it justified after such a dismal season – Ten Hag rightly enjoyed this moment in the Wembley sun.

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Ratcliffe and his new-look football structure are unlikely to shape the future based on one game, no matter how glorious, and a pertinent question might be to ask where the United that outflanked City, especially in a thrillng first half, have been all season?

The post-match statement issued by Ratcliffe did not contain any hints about Ten Hag’s future but it did not offer any public support either, which looked significant.

The manager’s answer, as it has been all along, is to correctly point out that he inherited a club and team which interim predecessor Ralf Rangnick claimed needed “open heart surgery”.

He also pointed to a horrendous injury list, saying after United’s win: “I tell you this all year. When the players are fit we can play good football. This was a very good performance against the best team in the world.

“I think the criticism has been unfair. The team. Me as well. It was not right. We didn’t have the players. We have seen the same things, not always good football – definitely not – but we had to make compromises all the time and then you can’t play the football you want.

“I had the full squad available maybe three or four times in two years. Even here we were missing massive players like Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Casemiro.”

 

 

BBC

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