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How Erik ten Hag transformed Manchester United: How dropping Cristiano Ronaldo and an eight-mile run changed the manager’s first season.



Erik ten Hag wanted a big win to demonstrate his legitimacy despite all the good work he has done at Manchester United.

For Ten Hag this midweek, defeating Barcelona was the only thing that mattered. The Carabao Cup final against Newcastle on Sunday may be postponed.
Although it was only the Europa League and Barcelona may not be as dominant as they once were, the manner of the comeback victory and the fact that they are currently atop La Liga give Ten Hag every right to consider it to be the most significant victory of his nine-month tenure at Old Trafford.


One could argue that Ten Hag’s two most memorable United experiences up until Thursday night both occurred off the field. The day after they suffered a 4-0 defeat at Brentford in August of last year, he made his team run eight miles. Ten Hag wanted to make sure that never happened again because in 90 minutes, Brentford players had run eight miles more than the United players had.

But his real stroke of genius came when he joined the players who were fleeing. He wanted to demonstrate to the players that he was ready to sacrifice as much as he wanted them to for the team and that he was also prepared to accept some of the blame for the problems at Brentford.


Supporters of United cheered and welcomed Ten Hag’s response to that defeat as well as the way he handled Cristiano Ronaldo. Another crucial turning point that distinguished him as a man of real substance and authority was his eventual victory in the power play between manager and superstar.

After Ronaldo gave a heartfelt, unauthorized interview to Piers Morgan in November, Ten Hag made it clear to his superiors that there was no turning back for him. Ten Hag had the full support of United’s owners, and after consulting with attorneys, Ronaldo’s £500,000 per week contract was ended by “mutual agreement.”

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