Is the Champions League Erik ten Hag's best chance of success?

David Banks
Authored by David Banks
Posted: Monday, October 2, 2023 - 15:41

It's been a troubled start to the season for Manchester United, and now manager Erik ten Hag is starting to feel the pressure. This is now Erik ten Hag's Manchester United team, and as a result, the buck has to stop with him. The honeymoon period is over.

The United boss got rid of the majority of players he didn't want and replaced them with his signings. The excuse that this isn't his team can no longer be used, and with the fans starting to get impatient, the Dutchman is now firmly in their sights.

Can the Champions League offer hope for Erik ten Hag?

The Premier League was never really a realistic aim for Manchester United. They started the season at 12/1 to win the title and are now 50/1 to win it. Bizarrely, in the latest UEFA Champions League betting, United are 33/1 to win the competition, showing that the bookmakers believe it's more likely that United can win the top club trophy in Europe than their domestic league.

But even though a Premier League challenge was never likely to be sustained by ten Hag's team, a better effort than this was expected.

Arsenal gave Manchester City a scare last season. They even had the cheek to open up daylight between themselves and Pep's team early in the second half of the season. It wasn't too much for Manchester United fans to expect their team to do something similar and show signs of improvement.

At the moment there seems little chance of that happening, meaning a good run in the Champions League might be ten Hag's best chance of success this season.

The Glazers are currently in the firing line

The safety blanket of the Glazers and the ongoing saga that is the supposed sale of the club is currently occupying the attention of the Man Utd fans. But that is unlikely to be the case for much longer.

The same problems existed at the club when Ole Gunnar Solskjær was manager of the club, and the fans turned on him. And Solskjær was a club legend, so the Glazers won't be able to protect ten Hag forever.

Some of the players he sold were club legends. The fans may have understood the departures at the time. But they will be quick to remind ten Hag of his decisions if the team ends up worse off as a result.

Results make the difference

It has long been accepted that Sir Alex Ferguson was successful at the club despite the Glazers, not because of them. It is now apparent that Ferguson overachieved in those final years, and no one who has followed him since has been up to the task.

Sir Alex Ferguson proved it was possible to win over fans simply by winning games. But will fans mind if ten Hag focuses his attention more on this season's UEFA Champions League? Winning that competition would be the key to gaining legendary status and the best way to keep the fans off his back.