EPL

The potential stars of Ten Hag's Man United, and those whose days may be numbered

By Sports Desk April 21, 2022

After months of speculation, Manchester United have confirmed Erik ten Hag will take over as the club's new manager at the end of another frustrating season at Old Trafford.

The 52-year-old will have a huge job on his hands when he arrives this summer, with the Red Devils looking unlikely to qualify for the Champions League after struggling under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick this term.

High up on Ten Hag's to-do list will be deciding who amongst the current squad will be suited to playing his high-pressing, possession-based style of football.

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta-powered data to give an insight into three players who could impress under the Dutchman, and three who may find their days numbered after his arrival…

Who might star under Ten Hag?

Donny Van de Beek

An easy choice. Van de Beek emerged as a star under Ten Hag's tutelage at Ajax, and was a driving force being the Amsterdam giants' terrific run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19. Installed as a creative midfielder alongside Frenkie de Jong, Van de Beek scored three goals and provided two assists during that famous run, with only Dusan Tadic (six) outscoring him for Ajax in the competition.

Having played a paltry 381 minutes for United across 14 appearances this season before being sent on loan to Everton in January, the 25-year-old looks the most obvious player to benefit from the arrival of his former coach

Jadon Sancho

Another player likely to thrive under Ten Hag is England winger Jadon Sancho, who has registered five goals and three assists in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils since moving from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

Only Bruno Fernandes (98) has created more open-play chances for United this term than Sancho (47), and he definitely stands to benefit from the arrival of a coach whose teams play with genuine width.

Each of Tadic (15), Antony (12), and Steven Berghuis (11) have reached double figures for Eredivisie goals for Ajax this term, so their former coach could be the man to get the best of the England man.

Luke Shaw

Ten Hag's Ajax team deployed their full-backs as a key attacking threat, with Argentine left-back Nicolas Tagliafico netting three goals during 2018-19's Champions League run.

Amongst Premier League defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold created more than the 72 chances crafted by Red Devils left-back Shaw during the 2020-21 season, and the England man could rediscover that form if unleashed by United's new boss.

Who might see their position threatened?

Harry Maguire 

The United skipper has faced much criticism for his role in another poor campaign for the Red Devils, and could be the first big-name casualty of Ten Hag's attempts to install a more progressive style of play.

No United defender has made as many errors leading to shots as Maguire in the Premier League this term (three), while his passing accuracy of 86.37 per cent is marginally lower than those of fellow defenders Raphael Varane (87.47) and Victor Lindelof (86.63), potentially marking out the England man as ripe for a replacement.

David De Gea

When another possession-hungry coach arrived in Manchester back in 2016, one of his first moves involved finding a goalkeeper he could trust to participate as his team tried to build from the back.

That man, of course, was Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and Ten Hag could look to replicate his acquisition of Ederson by replacing De Gea. The Spaniard has recorded a pass accuracy of just 68.81 per cent in the Premier League this season, way short of elite rivals Ederson (88.35) and Allison (85.22).

Cristiano Ronaldo

Hear us out on this one. The legendary striker's goalscoring prowess remains unrivalled, and his 21 goals in all competitions since returning to Old Trafford last summer put him a long way clear of his nearest team-mate (Bruno Fernandes with nine).

However, the height of Ten Hag's success at Ajax came with Tadic used as a false nine in 2018-19, recording 10 goal involvements (six goals, four assists) during their thrilling European run. 

Besides, with Ronaldo's 140 strikes placing him at the top of the Champions League's all-time top goalscoring charts, can the 37-year-old really be expected to forgo playing in European football's premier competition if United fail to qualify? If not, a potentially tough decision regarding his future could be taken out of Ten Hag's hands.

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    Bruno Fernandes said Manchester United's players cannot afford to get annoyed by outside criticism, after he scored twice to fire the Red Devils to a much-needed win over Sheffield United.

    Erik ten Hag's team were roundly criticised for their performance in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Coventry City, as they surrendered a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 before inching through in a penalty shoot-out.

    They had also gone four Premier League games without a win (three draws, one defeat) prior to Wednesday's meeting with the rock-bottom Blades, with their hopes of Champions League football all-but over.

    They twice trailed as Sheffield United threatened a huge upset, but Fernandes scored twice and supplied an assist as they fought back to claim a 4-2 win.

    Asked whether the noise around Sunday's semi-final win had affected the mood at Old Trafford, Fernandes told Sky Sports: "That's part of the job. 

    "You can be in a run of games where you win eight or nine in a row, and when you lose one you know you'll be criticised. 

    "Being at Manchester United demands winning every game, so it's part of the job. If there is anyone in the dressing room still not used to that, they will get used to it!

    "Being a Manchester United player demands being ready to receive as much criticism as praise. We receive praise when we do good things so we can't be annoyed by the criticism.

    "When people want to do that, they might have a point. We can think in a different way, but we have to take it in the same way as we take the credit they give us."

    Ten Hag's team did look disjointed for long periods on Wednesday, though, and they have now conceded 50 Premier League goals this season.

    The Red Devils have now shipped a half-century of goals in two of their last three Premier League campaigns, having done so just once in their previous 29.

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    "I think we played quite well, we created many more chances, so there's many positives. But also negatives. Conceding two goals from giveaways, that's unacceptable.

    "We want to play dynamic, attacking football. That is what we want to see. Since the winter we have created lots of chances and also scored a lot of those chances."

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    The Blades have now shipped 92 goals this term, the most ever conceded in a 38-game Premier League campaign. 

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    Ten Hag received fierce criticism after his team surrendered a 3-0 lead in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Coventry City, who they beat on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

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    The win takes Ten Hag's side above Newcastle United and into the top six with 53 points, while bottom club Sheffield United stay 10 points adrift of safety.

    Just 28 seconds had been played when Diogo Dalot worked Wes Foderingham from range, but if the hosts thought that effort would precipitate an assault on the Blades' goal, they were mistaken.

    Alejandro Garnacho was denied by Foderingham after a mazy run, but the Red Devils were largely uninspired as the visitors sat back.

    They gifted Sheffield United the lead after 35 minutes as Onana passed straight to Bogle, who side-footed home at the near post.

    That sparked Ten Hag's team into life, though, and they were level within seven minutes as Maguire glanced Garnacho's cross home.

    Foderingham denied Garnacho with a fine stop on the stroke of half-time, and Sheffield United made that reprieve count within five minutes of the restart, Brereton Diaz pouncing to prod Ben Osborn's cross home.

    Yet Chris Wilder's visitors again failed to hold on as Auston Trusty wrestled Maguire to the ground from a corner, allowing Fernandes to blast into the top-left corner from the spot.

    Fernandes then blasted home from 25 yards out to send Ten Hag's hosts ahead for the first time, and the midfielder was not done there, teeing up Hojlund to make the points safe with a pinpoint cross from the right.

    Fernandes rescues Red Devils

    Ahead of Wednesday's game, Manchester United had only won one of their last seven Premier League matches (three draws, three defeats), going winless through the last four of those (three draws, one defeat) – their worst such streak since 2019.

    They twice looked on course for a humiliating defeat, but Fernandes led from the front to down the Blades and boost his team's hopes of salvaging Europa League qualification.

    He has now scored seven goals in his last six Premier League appearances, netting on each of his last four outings. This is just the second time he has enjoyed a four-match scoring streak with the Red Devils in the competition, having done so under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in February 2021.

    Blades on the brink

    While Sheffield United can take heart from their performance at Old Trafford, the result does nothing for their slim hopes of remaining among England's elite.

    Wilder's men are 10 points from safety with just 12 to play for this season and will be relegated to the Championship if they lose to Newcastle United on Saturday.

    The Blades could even see their fate confirmed this weekend with a victory, depending on Nottingham Forest's result against Manchester City on Sunday. 

    They have now conceded 92 goals in 34 Premier League matches this term, the most ever conceded in a 38-game season in the competition.

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