Erik ten Hag acknowledged that Manchester City had humiliated Manchester United when they defeated them in October, but he insisted that lessons had been learned after a chaotic Old Trafford match on Saturday lunchtime.
This season, United has defeated Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham in this location, but the victory over Premier League champions City—and the way in which it was achieved—is by far the most impactful declaration of Ten Hag’s leadership.
When Bruno Fernandes equalized with 12 minutes remaining, Manchester City will think that this derby depended on a contentious decision that determined Marcus Rashford was not interfering with play.
Rashford scored the game-winning goal in the frantic final few minutes to give United a 2-1 victory.
The festivities that followed the final whistle gave off the impression that this enormous club, which had so severely lost its direction, may just be doing so again under Ten Hag.
Man Utd shocks City in a local derby.
Since that 6-3 humiliation at the Etihad Stadium, United has now lost just one of 19 games, supporting Ten Hag’s assertion that a traumatic event might be turned into a force for good.
Although the outcome of this derby was highly contentious and there must have been some sympathy for City’s complaints, United’s performance, character, and unity justified the growing optimism at Old Trafford that has replaced the hopelessness of the season’s early goings when they lost at home to Brighton and were then humiliated at Brentford.
Since his transfer from Real Madrid, Casemiro, to use Ten Hag’s phrase, has “placed cement between the bricks,” but so many other factors are coming into play that United is now only one point behind City, a situation that would have made anyone speculating it laugh out loud a few months ago.
The disciplined, tactically smart Ten Hag, who is making an even bigger impression on Manchester United with each passing week, is at the center of it all. Compared to many of his predecessors in recent years, Ten Hag appears more at home and up to the task at hand.
When Cristiano Ronaldo was quickly whisked off the premises after his subordination, Ten Hag had restored confidence, taught effective game management, and also established who is in command.
Even Rashford, who was in excellent form, was benched by Wolverhampton Wanderers after he arrived late for a meeting.
Is Rashford the one who benefits from Ten Hag’s influence the most?
Rashford now has eight goals in his past seven games across all competitions and has been on target in each of his last nine games at Old Trafford. He is the first United player to accomplish this feat since Teddy Sheringham in late 2000.
Rashford’s happiness stood in stark contrast to Erling Haaland, City’s go-to scorer, who had a rare unsuccessful day by only touching the ball 19 times and only five of those inside United’s box.
Manchester City, who have recently dominated not just United but pretty much everyone else domestically, have dominated in recent years, therefore it is far too early to get carried away by talking titles and gauging gaps being bridged to them.
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Without a shadow of a doubt, United are, at long last, heading back in the correct path. It was evident on the field and in the Old Trafford crowd, which was jubilant at the final whistle.
After the years of underachievement, Ten Hag still has a lot of work to do, but having United third in the Premier League and just behind City in August is a result that anyone with a connection to the team would have jumped at.
Luke Shaw’s deployment in center defense, a move that caused controversy considering that he was operating in the same regions as Haaland, is one example of a decision he is making that worked.
Shaw was exceptional, particularly in stoppage time when the small defender rose to win aerial duels on a few occasions during a protracted game of head tennis on the outskirts of the box.
It was always going to be a case of managerial evolution rather than revolution with Ten Hag’s arrival and methodical approach, but the best way to show the graph is heading up is to beat the champions, especially when those champions are Manchester City.