Focus on Ten Hag's first game in charge

Tuesday 12 July 2022 16:11

The Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok was the stage as Erik ten Hag took charge of his very first game as Manchester United manager on Tuesday.

It’s always interesting to see what style a manager adopts, especially on the touchline during games.

Will he patrol his technical area, prowling and ready to shout out instructions? Or take a calmer approach and sit in his seat, allowing one of his assistants to provide the impetus?

Well, Ten Hag has already caught the eye in his limited number of training sessions as United boss for his forthright and hands-on coaching style and immediately from kick-off he was up and marshalling his players through their various roles.

It was a frenzied beginning to the game, as David De Gea twice pulled out super stops and Fred’s attempted through ball was just cut out before it could reach Jadon Sancho.

Through those moments, which whipped the crowd into a frenzy, Ten Hag remained standing, arms folded, although he did turn and speak to assistant coaches Steve McClaren and Mitchell van der Gaag – stationed to his left and right – a couple of times.

There’s clearly a huge amount of trust between the trio, with McClaren and van der Gaag playing major roles in training and it's apparent Erik will often consult them for advice.

As anyone who has watched Ten Hag’s press conferences will know, he’s not a man eager to give too much away – at least not in these early stages of his tenure.

So it will come as no surprise that there wasn’t a wild, chest-pumping reaction to Sancho’s opener along the lines of what we’ve come to see from his opposite number Jurgen Klopp in recent years - perhaps those kinds of celebrations will be reserved for when the season properly starts!

The sumptuous second goal from Fred was one that will no doubt be replayed for years on end. The Brazilian doesn’t often get on the scoresheet, but this was a finish that left compatriot Alisson utterly helpless and it was enough to earn a clap from Erik, who will no doubt have been equally as impressed when Anthony Martial made it 3-0 with a dink after a solo run from the right.

Fred scores with a chip v Liverpool Video

Fred scores with a chip v Liverpool

Fred showed his Brazilian flair with this lovely finish against the Merseysiders, live on MUTV...

A brief water break separated the strikes as Liverpool switched out their entire XI and during that time Ten Hag spoke to several of his players as they huddled over by the dugout, including Fred. Perhaps a tactical instruction or maybe a ‘well done’ for the goal?

Half-time followed soon after and Ten Hag was straight off to the dressing room, no doubt to communicate his plans for the second period, with United fielding a fresh outfield line-up.

The XI after the break was more youthful, with Academy graduates Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage partnering each other in midfield behind an exciting trio of Amad, Facundo Pellistri and Anthony Elanga in attack.

Ten Hag garnered a reputation at Ajax for his work with young players who are just making their name in the game and those who are fighting for a place in his thoughts will no doubt value the expertise and guidance he can offer from the sidelines and in training.

Liverpool’s ‘first’ team arrived on the hour to provide United with a stern test, as Ten Hag once again took advantage of the water break to dole out instructions to his players, among them Iqbal and Alex Telles, the latter playing in an unfamiliar centre-back position.

Telles’ partner in the heart of the defence, Eric Bailly, provided the impetus for United’s fourth, as he broke forward and fed Pellistri who, after good work from Amad, slotted the ball past Adrian.

It was a brilliant team goal and the perfect way to cap off what was, in many ways, the perfect opening game of Erik’s tenure. He won’t be getting carried away just yet, though – and that much was evident from his post-match interview.

"Liverpool played with three teams and they were not at their strongest," he admitted. "So we are not overestimating the [performance]. But we saw some really good things. What you see is we have a lot of creativity and speed in the front and we have potential."