Ten Hag refuses to give up on Van de Beek at Man Utd

By Sports Desk November 04, 2022

Erik ten Hag acknowledges Donny van de Beek must improve in order to be a success at Manchester United, but is refusing to give up on the midfielder.

Having impressed in an advanced role for Ten Hag's Ajax team, Van de Beek moved to Old Trafford for an initial fee of £35million in 2020, but has since struggled for consistent game-time.

Van de Beek made 27 Premier League appearances across his first two campaigns with United, and has only played 19 minutes in the competition this season after enduring an equally frustrating loan spell at Everton earlier in 2022.

Those struggles have seen Van de Beek lose his place in the Netherlands' squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, but Ten Hag – who started the midfielder in Thursday's Europa League win at Real Sociedad – believes the 25-year-old can change his fortunes. 

Asked on Thursday whether there would be a point at which United accepted Van de Beek's move had not worked out, Ten Hag replied: "Yes. Not now. 

"I think he had quite a good pre-season. He was injured, now he's back. Last week [against Sheriff in the Europa League] I think he played very well, and today I think it was a decent performance.

"I know he can do better as I know him very well. He acted and delivered what I expect in terms of positioning, pressing, transition and accuracy. 

"I think he can be more of a threat to the opponents' goal, that's his biggest quality. In the time I am here, he is performing well in the game-time we gave him."

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  • Georgia ready to 'write a new page of history' at Euro 2024 - Kvaratskhelia Georgia ready to 'write a new page of history' at Euro 2024 - Kvaratskhelia

    Khvicha Kvaratskhelia says Georgia are ready to "leave our mark" and "write a new page of history" on their major international tournament debut at Euro 2024.

    Willy Sagnol's side, who qualified via the play-offs after beating former champions Greece on penalties, are the only debutants in Germany, where they commence their campaign against Turkiye on June 18.

    The Crusaders will also play Portugal and Czechia in Group F, with Kvaratskhelia insisting he and his team-mates are not appearing in the tournament just to make up the numbers.

    The Napoli winger, who helped the Partenopei to the 2022-23 Scudetto, scored four goals for Georgia during qualifying, in which he also completed the joint-most dribbles along with Belgium's Jeremy Doku (both 44).

    On being considered his nation's talisman, the 23-year-old said: "This is a very big responsibility, and I am grateful when my work is appreciated.

    "There are a lot of Georgian footballers who could become the best player of the country; every one of us tries to be a team, and individual success is less important to us at the moment.

    "We are very focused and will do our best to succeed. It's a pleasure for me to play at Euro 2024. These are unforgettable moments and emotions which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

    "It was the greatest dream of every Georgian to become a part of such an important tournament, and it was the happiest day for all of us when we achieved it.

    "But we didn't come here just to attend; we wish to leave our mark on Euro 2024, to write a new page of history. We will do our utmost for this. Our team is very focused and ready for this tournament."

    When they face Turkiye, Georgia will be aiming to become the fourth European Championship debutants since 2012 to win their maiden match at the finals after Ukraine (2012), Wales (2016) and Finland (2020).

  • Mbappe, Kane or Ronaldo: Who will win the Golden Boot at Euro 2024? Mbappe, Kane or Ronaldo: Who will win the Golden Boot at Euro 2024?

    From Gerd Muller to Marco van Basten, Alan Shearer to Fernando Torres, some of the greatest strikers to have played the game have had the honour of winning the Golden Boot at a European Championship.

    When Europe's finest descend upon Germany for the 17th edition of UEFA's flagship international tournament, a mix of established greats and young prospects will vie to be the continent's best goalscorer.

    Can Cristiano Ronaldo mark what will surely be his final major tournament by becoming the first two-time recipient of the Golden Boot, or might Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappe upstage the Portugal legend? 

    As the build-up to Euro 2024 continues, we delve into the Opta data to assess the chances of the leading contenders, pick out a couple of potential dark horses and ask what lessons we can take from previous Golden Boot winners.

    THE FAVOURITES

    Kylian Mbappe

    Where else to start but with Mbappe? 

    The France captain is again among the favourites to top the goalscoring charts, having netted eight times to win the Golden Boot as Les Bleus came up just short at the 2022 World Cup.

    While Mbappe has 12 goals in 14 World Cup matches and looks destined to obliterate Miroslav Klose's record of 16, he failed to score at his only previous Euros, even missing the decisive kick as France went out to Switzerland on penalties three years ago. 

    At Euro 2020, only Alvaro Morata (six), Gerard Moreno and Kane (five each) missed more big chances (as defined by Opta) than Mbappe (four). His 14 total shots amounted to 1.7 expected goals (xG), with only Moreno (-2.25) and Dani Olmo (-1.86) underperforming their xG figures by a greater margin. 

    However, few would predict a repeat following a season in which Mbappe scored 44 times in 47 games, a tally only matched by Kane among players from Europe's top five leagues. 

    Mbappe also scored nine times in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, though the depth of attacking talent available to Didier Deschamps – and the likelihood of Mbappe playing from the left flank – could mean they are slightly less reliant on one star than other nations. 

    France had the largest spread of goalscorers of any side during qualifying, with 14 different players scoring at least once for them, excluding own goals. 

    A testing Group D draw could also work against him; Austria and the Netherlands both conceded just seven goals in eight qualifiers, while Poland shipped 10 in their group games. However, should France go all the way, he will likely provide some big moments.

    Harry Kane

    As the only player in Europe's top five leagues to match Mbappe in 2023-24, many feel Kane was let down by those around him as Bayern Munich relinquished their Bundesliga crown.

    Having suffered final heartache at Euro 2020, Kane will be desperate to end his major trophy hoodoo in his new homeland.

    Kane is England's record goalscorer overall (63 goals) and their most prolific player at major tournaments (12 goals at World Cup/Euros). Across the last three tournaments (2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup), Mbappe is the only player to match Kane's return. 

    He scored or assisted on all seven of his starts in qualifying (eight goals, two assists) and despite failing to capture silverware in his first season in Germany, he sent records tumbling in a brilliant individual campaign.

    Thirty-six goals in 32 games made Kane's debut campaign the most prolific in Bundesliga history, with only Robert Lewandowski (41 in 2020-21) and Muller (40 in 1971-72, 38 in 1969-70) ever scoring more in a single season. 

    A kind group-stage draw should allow Kane the chance to build some early momentum. Serbia are making their first Euros appearance as an independent nation, while Slovenia are embarking on their first campaign since 2000.

    Even Denmark – against whom Kane scored the winner in the Euro 2020 semi-finals – could give up plenty of opportunities.

    Their previous 33 matches at the Euros have produced an average of 2.79 goals per game (42 for, 50 against), the highest ratio among the 12 teams to have played at least 20 games.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    Portugal's Euro 2020 campaign ended in last-16 heartache against Belgium, but in just four games, Ronaldo did enough to claim the Golden Boot with five goals and one assist, edging out Patrik Schick.

    In many ways, this is Ronaldo's competition. He holds the tournament records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – starting in 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five).

    Since 1972, Ronaldo has recorded twice as many goal involvements as any other player at the Euros (20 – 14 goals, six assists), with Michel Platini a distant second (10, nine goals, one assist).

    However, age catches up with everyone, and many have questioned the 39-year-old's value to the Selecao since he swapped Manchester United for Al-Nassr after the 2022 World Cup.

    Ronaldo may not be playing at the peak of the European game any more, but he set a new single-season record with 35 Saudi Pro League goals in 2023-24, overperforming his xG total of 30.68 even while missing more big chances than any other player in the league (33).

    Questions persist regarding Ronaldo's ability to fit into a coherent off-the-ball structure, but if chances fall his way, he is likely to take them. 

    He should not suffer from a lack of service. Of the top 10 players in Europe's top five leagues for open-play chances created in 2023-24 (all competitions), three were Portuguese – Bruno Fernandes (first, 111), Bernardo Silva (eighth, 84) and Rafael Leao (joint-10th, 82).

    Romelu Lukaku

    Lukaku became Belgium's all-time leading goalscorer all the way back in 2018 and now has 85 goals in 115 senior international appearances. 

    Eleven of those strikes have come at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros), though he struggled enormously in Qatar two years ago and has only netted twice in knockout games for his country.

    However, he should not be discounted from the Golden Boot race at this year's tournament.

    Lukaku scored an astonishing 14 goals in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, setting a new record for a single qualification campaign. He scored every 39 minutes on average and converted almost half of his shots (29), accounting for 63.6 per cent of total goals scored by Domenico Tedesco's men (22).

    With Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine awaiting Belgium in Group E and a third-place finisher next up if they top their pool, Lukaku should be confident of a strong start.

    Like Ronaldo, he will also be serviced by some of the continent's best creators.

    Since the start of the 2014 World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne's nine assists at major tournaments (five at the Euros, four at World Cups) are the most of any European player, and he led all Premier League players for expected assists (0.42 xA) and chances created (3.37) per 90 minutes in 2023-24.

    Ranking second for xA per 90 (0.33) and third for chances created (2.49)? That would be De Bruyne's City and Belgium team-mate Jeremy Doku. Lukaku will not want for opportunities.

    Alvaro Morata

    Euro 2020 will live long in the memory of Atletico Madrid striker Morata, but perhaps not for the right reasons.

    He netted three times as Spain made the last four, but he was also criticised after missing more big chances (six) than any other player at the tournament. To make matters worse, it was his unsuccessful penalty which allowed Italy to beat La Roja in a semi-final shoot-out.

    However, Morata does have a decent pedigree at the Euros, ranking joint-fifth in the competition's all-time goalscoring charts, his six strikes equalling the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    Meanwhile, Joselu – Morata's understudy for this tournament – was the only Spain player to match his four goals in qualifying.

    Luis de la Fuente's approach does not differ greatly from that of Luis Enrique, so Spain will be patient in their bid to create chances.

    La Roja's last 50 goals at the Euros have all been scored from inside the box, their last long-range strike coming via Raul against Slovenia in 2000.

    Morata scored 15 goals in 27 LaLiga matches in 2023-24, making it his joint-most prolific campaign in one of Europe's top five leagues (he also netted 15 times for Real Madrid in 2016-17). 

    THE OUTSIDERS

    Florian Wirtz

    The likes of Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug are battling it out to lead the line for Germany, but perhaps their main goal threat will come from deep if Julian Nagelsmann implements a fluid system.

    Bayer Leverkusen star Wirtz was crowned Bundesliga Player of the Year after scoring 11 goals and providing 11 assists throughout their unbeaten campaign, also netting four times on their run to the Europa League final.

    Gianluca Scamacca

    Leverkusen's European campaign ended in heartbreaking fashion against Atalanta in Dublin. While Ademola Lookman did the damage in the final, Scamacca also shone for La Dea and has a great chance of starting at the Euros, given Italy's lack of true striking options.

    Scamacca only has one goal in 16 senior appearances for Italy, but if Luciano Spalletti picks his team on form, the former West Ham striker should make it in. He scored 19 goals in all competitions in 2023-24, outperforming his xG total of 11.2 by a huge differential of 7.8.  

    Rasmus Hojlund

    Might a former Atalanta forward also find himself in contention? Hojlund endured an up-and-down debut season with Manchester United, but he ended it on a high by scoring in his last two Premier League games before helping them triumph in the FA Cup final.

    Hojlund top-scored for Denmark with seven goals in qualifying, also leading his team-mates for shots (23), shots on target (13) and xG (5.2). If Denmark are to push England close in Group C, they will need their number nine in top form.

    What does history tell us? 

    We are highly unlikely to see anyone match Platini's incredible nine-goal haul from Euro 1984, but looking at recent Golden Boot winners does allow us to draw a few conclusions about what is needed to come out on top. 

    Since the Euros expanded to 16 teams for 1996, the fewest goals needed to win the Golden Boot was three, with Torres taking the honours in 2012, after his team-mate David Villa did so with four in 2008.

    Antoine Griezmann's six goals in 2016 is the closest any player has ever come to Platini's haul, while four of the last seven editions have seen the leading scorer finish on five goals. 

    Griezmann and Platini, alongside Shearer in 1996, are also the only standalone winners to claim the award while representing the host nation.

    It is also interesting to note that team success does not necessarily translate to individual honours. 

    Spain duo Villa and Torres are the only players to claim the Golden Boot as tournament winners since 1992 (when Denmark's Henrik Larsen shared it with three other players).

    A deep run of sorts is usually required, though. Ronaldo won the Euro 2020 Golden Boot despite Portugal exiting in the last 16, but the previous four standalone winners all played for teams who reached the semi-finals as a minimum.

    As you might have guessed, having the best goalscorer in the competition helps, but it is no guarantee of glory.

    Few England fans will be consoled by a Kane Golden Boot if the Three Lions fall short.   

  • Southgate succession plan in place after Euro 2024 despite no approaches for England boss Southgate succession plan in place after Euro 2024 despite no approaches for England boss

    England have started to plan for life after Gareth Southgate but Football Association executive Mark Bullingham insists no approach has been made for the manager, nor has his future been decided.

    The Three Lions boss raised questions over his future after German media outlet BILD published an interview this week from Southgate, who suggested Euro 2024 this month is his last chance with England.

    Manchester United were reportedly interested in the 53-year-old as well before reaffirming their commitment to under-fire manager Erik ten Hag.

    As the European Championship awaits in Germany, Bullingham sought to ease any fears over the future of Southgate, though reiterated the FA has already thought through a succession plan.

    "Gareth has been really, really clear that he wants to talk about that after the tournament," Bullingham said.

    "And I don't want to provide any distraction for him and the team, and I want to respect the fact that he wants to talk about the future after the tournament.

     "I've seen some things about, 'Have we got a plan, haven't we?' Any organisation has a succession plan in place for their top employees, and we are no different to that.

    "A succession plan normally includes everything from what you do for the short-term cover, through to a process you follow, through to [drawing up] a candidate pool. We have that for all our top employees."

    Bullingham also assured that Southgate's future will not be dictated by success at Euro 2024, with the manager's contract set to expire in December.

    "[The team] could go further but be playing poorly or have a really unlucky result where you get a couple of red cards and hit the woodwork three times," the FA chief added.

    "I think setting an arbitrary figure isn't the right way to go. I think we step back and look at everything after the tournament."

    In a staunch defence of Southgate, Bullingham lauded the job the former England international has done, guiding the Three Lions to the Euro 2020 final and World Cup semi-finals in 2018.

    "I would say I think the world of Gareth, I think he has done a phenomenal job," Bullingham said.

    "I think he has transformed the fortunes of our team, and that's not just off the pitch, and you can see the culture, but also the performances on the pitch.

    "Since 1966, he has won about half of our knockout games, which is a measure we really use, so we value him massively."

    Should Southgate leave, Bullingham remains open to bringing in another homegrown talent to manage England.

    "We have two senior coaches," he continued. "One of them is English, one of them [England women's boss Sarina Wiegman] is not.

    "Any federation in the world would always want to have a pool of top homegrown talent playing and managing at any time."

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