AFP/ Manchester, United Kingdom
• United ended up 35 points behind champions City, who pipped Liverpool to the title by a point
Manchester United’s new manager Erik ten Hag believes it is possible to end the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool despite taking over a struggling side that finished a lowly sixth in the Premier League.
United ended up 35 points behind champions City, who pipped Liverpool to the title by a point, as the Red Devils registered their lowest-ever Premier League points tally. City boss Pep Guardiola has now claimed four titles in five years, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can complete a treble of cup trophies this season should the Reds see off Real Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League final.
Guardiola and Klopp - the managers of United’s two biggest rivals - have consistently battled it out for the major trophies, leaving the Red Devils, without silverware since 2017, as bystanders. However, the Dutchman challenged the suggestion it would take the departure of one or both of Guardiola and Klopp for United to be able to compete again.
“In this moment I admire them both,” Ten Hag said as he was unveiled at Old Trafford. “They play in this moment really fantastic football, both Liverpool and Manchester City. But you always see that an era can come to an end. I am looking forward to battle with them.”
The former Ajax boss, 52, is United’s fifth permanent manager since the club last won a league title in Alex Ferguson’s farewell season in 2013. Ten Hag also had a spell as Bayern Munich’s reserve team manager earlier in his career and said he was used to the demands of working at a big club.
“This is a project, it takes time,” he said. “I know in this club - I have the experience of Ajax and Bayern - in the top (clubs) there is never time. “We want to win every game so we go from game to game and then we will see. This club has a great history, now let’s make the future. It’s really exciting to do that with the people around in the club.”
Ten Hag refused to be drawn on how many new signings he is targeting in the transfer window, but said there would be a role for top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who turns 38 next season. Ralf Rangnick’s interim time in charge since November failed to summon any sort of response from an expensively assembled squad as United finished 13 points outside the top four.
Rangnick is set to take over as Austria manager but is still contracted to the club in a consultancy role for the next two years. Ten Hag, though, was non-committal on how much contact he will have with Rangnick. “That is on the club,” he said of Rangnick’s role. “I analyse by myself, I observe and I speak with a lot of people, but finally I draw my own line.”
Glazer defends United reign after troubled season
Meanwhile, Avram Glazer has defended his family’s controversial reign as Manchester United owners after a troubled season marred by fan protests.
Supporters stepped up their calls for the Glazers to sell United throughout a dismal campaign that ended in a dismal sixth-placed finish for Ralf Rangnick’s side after Sunday’s limp 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. United’s 58 points represented their lowest tally in the Premier League era. Their failure to qualify for next season’s Champions league was the latest blow for the 20-time English champions, who will instead play in the less lucrative Europa League.
On the day United’s new manager ten Hag gave his first press conference, Glazer – who co-owns the club with siblings Joel, Kevin, Bryan, Darcie and Edward – admitted it had been a frustrating season. Glazer said: “It’s a disappointing season for everyone and we’re going to work hard to make next season a better season.”
United last won the Premier League in 2013 and have not lifted a major trophy since 2017. Pressed on whether the United States-based family will back Ten Hag’s rebuild of United’s underachieving squad, Glazer said: “We’ve always spent the money necessary to buy new players.”
Glazer was initially reluctant to speak on camera but then briefly chatted while on the move during his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Asked whether he believes former Ajax boss Ten Hag will be a success at United, Glazer said: “That’s why we hired him, we know he’ll do a great job.”
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