A damning 3-1 defeat to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal put yet another dent in the Red Devils hopes of a top-four Premier League finish and emphasised just how much the tides had changed. For years, the Gunners filled the role of fallen giant, often finding themselves ridiculed for their failure to replicate the club’s glory of yesteryear.
While United have, of course, also fallen some way short of their relentless success under Sir Alex Ferguson since 2013, their woes have almost always been overshadowed by Arsenal‘s embarrassments. However, this season, and Saturday in particular, signified a sizeable shift – and the Gunners have Arteta to thank for that.
The inexperienced Spaniard has stuck by his managerial philosophy, even when times got tough back in late December of 2020, and is steadily guiding Arsenal back towards the top of the English game. Champions League qualification will provide a significant step in that road to recovery.
Arteta has made it clear that it’s his way or the highway, culling the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a superstar striker who evidently lacked the requisite level of discipline. While the decision left some Arsenal supporters – namely Piers Morgan – in shock, the tough approach has subsequently served up success, with the club’s more harmonious squad edging ever closer to a Champions League return, despite a recent triple setback.
And it’s an approach incoming United manager Ten Hag must take inspiration from. The Dutchman is set to inherit a broken dressing room, devoid of confidence yet overflowing with egos.
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While the impending departure of the self-absorbed Paul Pogba will provide an added bonus for the 52-year-old, United’s current crop possess a number of players who appear increasingly intent on shirking responsibility, pointing fingers at one another and refusing to respect authority. Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick have been questioned by the squad this season and, while Ten Hag has enjoyed admirable success with Ajax, his lack of experience at a major club in a major league means he also risks being undermined.
However, the Dutchman simply cannot stand for such a culture. Despite his relative inexperience, Arteta has laid his marker down at Arsenal and now Ten Hag must follow suit when he arrives at Old Trafford.
It’s a point well made by none other than former United great Paul Scholes. The former Red Devil claimed Ten Hag will be well aware that United are a significant step up in his career, however a hard-lined, “no nonsense” approach, akin to Arteta’s at Arsenal, is exactly what is required if his Old Trafford rebuild is to see any success.
“I think he’s got a group of players that are talented, he just has to get this group of players to believe in his methods,” Scholes told talkSPORT. “I think it’s quite obvious this group of players, with the last two managers especially, haven’t believed in what they’re being coached and haven’t believed in the way of playing.
“He has to become a tough manager, a little bit in the way that Arteta has done at Arsenal. That was a big rebuilding job, and he’s taken no nonsense. I think this manager has to be exactly the same.”
As proven by Arsenal, things may have to get worse before they get better, but without any discipline or ruthlessness, Ten Hag will struggle to inspire improvements. United’s damaged dressing room can be fixed, but it’ll take a no-nonsense approach a la Arteta to do exactly that.