Jose Mourinho’s former No 2 Rui Faria has warned Erik ten Hag must fix two of the club’s biggest issues if his reign at Manchester United is to be deemed a success and is to avoid talk of facing the sack.
The Red Devils entered the Manchester City derby on Sunday in high spirits after winning five of their previous six games overall. Four straight Premier League victories had actually reduced Ten Hag’s initial pressure and signaled that his strategies were starting to work.
However, United found themselves 4-0 down at half-time and went on to lose 6-3 as Pep Guardiola’s side taught them a lesson. Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both grabbed derby hat-tricks to rub salt into their wounds.
In assessing the damage, our feature has named five transfer priorities that Ten Hag must turn to in January.
One man they are especially keen on is Jude Bellingham. The Borussia Dortmund teenager looks likely to become a top target for the Red Devils in 2023. That said, Haaland clearly has other ideas in mind after reportedly advising the midfielder over his next move.
However, Faria – who served as Mourinho’s assistant for 17 years at a variety of clubs, including United – insists their problems run deeper than that.
And rather than simply waving cash at the problems, he has told Ten Hag he needs to solve two long-running issues first.
In an interview with The Times, Faria claims it was evident that while working at United that the club was missing stability and lacked an identity.
And he still believes that remains an issue to this day. He also suggests that is something that Ten Hag must quickly fix to ensure he is not the latest boss to fall on his sword at Old Trafford.
Rui Faria warns Ten Hag of issues he must fix
Recalling his time at the club and the problems that remain to this day, Faria had a bleak message for Ten Hag.
“We arrived at a club that was missing stability and identity and you don’t just click your fingers and rebuild it.
“It takes time, and you also need to win, because people will not accept if you are not winning.
“So when Jose says (2017-18) is one of his best seasons he is right. That is when we achieved the last titles that the club won. That was its best period since (Sir Alex) Ferguson.”
Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
And despite spending a flood of cash, the club has rarely looked like challenging for the Premier League title.
“What is missing – still – is the stability, and the club needs to define what it wants.
“At City, it is the sixth season that Pep is there. He has the stability of putting his concepts into the club, the stability to buy players to fit his concepts, the stability to buy on top of (previous) successes.”
Ten Hag sack talk will grow if progress is not made at Man Utd
Whether Ten Hag gets the time he needs at United remains to be seen. However, there can be no magic wand and they won’t go from sixth to challenging for the title overnight.
Clearly, Sunday’s derby defeat – and you can read 16 conclusions from the game here – shows just how wide the chasm truly is. But sacking Ten Hag – even before two seasons – would be a risky strategy. History tells us that some of the most successful managers have needed time and patience to implement their ideas.
Liverpool, for example, waited four years to win their first trophy under Jurgen Klopp by lifting the Champions League. At no point in the years before did he look like being axed.
And United too only need to look at just how long it took Ferguson to get things right. Their FA Cup triumpgh in 1990 – four years after his appointment – is widely acknowledged as his turning point.
In this day and age, though, people and supporters quickly get impatient for success. The fickless of supporters was in evidence yesterday when a portion of them left at half-time with United 4-0 down.
But Ten Hag will need to show signs of progress this season to avoid talk of the sack. They will hope to secure a top-four finish and possibly challenge for a trophy. Failure to do that will see questions being asked and knives being sharpened.
But as Faria points out, that is not always the correct decision.