Erik ten Hag told key Man United fail as Jamie Carragher uses Mikel Arteta example

Mikel Arteta and Erik ten Hag
Ten Hag has a better record than Arteta but key thing is missing for United -Credit:OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Although Erik ten Hag has a better record than Mikel Arteta during their first two seasons in charge, Jamie Carragher insists there is one key thing missing for Manchester United.

Ten Hag has struggled to take United to the next level during his second season after a premature Champions League exit and an underwhelming Premier League campaign. United are also at risk of not qualifying for European football as co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe continues a major shake-up at the club.

It is unclear whether the Dutchman is part of Ratcliffe's plans moving forward. Carragher analysed Ten Hag's first two years at Old Trafford in comparison to Arteta's initial reign at the Emirates.

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Ten Hag's record is slightly better than the Spanish boss. In 73 games in charge of Arsenal, Arteta lost 24 of those, while Ten Hag won five more. United drew less times (12) than the Gunners (15) and although they had 16 less goals conceded (82) than United (98), they scored five fewer (105) than Ten Hag's side (110).

Writing in his Telegraph column, Carragher said: "Fortunately for Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, this poor record which he endured between December 2019 and December 2021 is proof that a difficult start to a reign can be overcome. Manchester United’s Erik ten Hag may analyse his next opponent’s first two years at the Emirates and see hope. He could certainly use it as evidence to Sir Jim Ratcliffe that demands for his dismissal are premature.

"It will shock many that across the same number of Premier League games, the Dutchman’s record is slightly better than that of Arteta. Despite all that, Arteta’s Arsenal performance levels never sank as consistently low as those of Ten Hag’s Manchester United. When comparing the respective records of Arteta and Ten Hag to this point of their reign, I have been asking myself what the real difference is.

"The first point to make is the context under which both were appointed. Arteta had never managed before taking over at Arsenal. Stan Kroenke took a risk by hiring a 37-year-old and in doing so committed the club to a long-term vision. Arteta was his man, and there is no point headhunting such a young coach and getting rid after the first two years of extensive rebuilding.

"Arteta inherited a team which had failed to qualify for the Champions League for three years and needed major reconstruction. High earners like Mesut Őzil, David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette needed offloading, as did expensive mistakes like Nicolas Pépé. Manchester United, by contrast, made a move forward last year, but have taken several steps back since. Ten Hag took over at United with a big reputation because of his work at Ajax, especially when he led them to the Champions League semi-final.

"Like Arteta, Ten Hag had no choice but to use the personnel available to be more pragmatic in his first season. Over his first three transfer windows, United spent just over £380 million and nothing has changed as they have bought more deadwood than they have sold. Of Ten Hag’s first Premier League line-up (defeat by Brighton in August, 2022), seven would probably still make the first-choice XI. Only two have left the club, and another, Jadon Sancho, is about to play the Champions League final on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

"Unlike Arteta’s transfer picks, Ten Hag’s decisions backfired terribly, especially the signings of Antony and Casemiro. United have been regularly outclassed by rivals, losing 6-3 against Manchester City and 7-0 to Liverpool, while struggling against mid-table Premier League teams too."

A look at different statistics show that United have 122.8 expected goals than Arsenal's 95.8, and 115.1 expected goals against in comparison to Arsenal's 98.5. The Red Devils have also had more shots (1101) than the Gunners (863) but Carragher explained what is missing for the Manchester team.

He added: "Even when United have enjoyed good results under Ten Hag, I am genuinely struggling to recall any exceptionally good performances with a perceptively proactive system of play. Two years on, they are not set up like a top team. Ten Hag says the injuries to Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martínez have prevented them playing from the back, but the style of a club of United’s stature should not depend on the fitness of two defenders. They still play on the counterattack, while using lots of direct high balls from back to front.

"None of Arteta’s most disappointing losses were remotely comparable to the 4-0 defeat by Crystal Palace on Monday night. Worryingly for Ten Hag, the biggest difference is he is not the owner’s appointment. The Arsenal board staked their reputation on Arteta coming good. Logic suggests Ratcliffe will be more inclined to stand or fall based on his managerial pick.

"A month before Arteta’s second anniversary as Arsenal manager, I wrote this: "It already looks like a different Arsenal to a year ago. Now, the worst might be over and they may be emerging towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Can anyone seriously argue the same about Ten Hag’s Manchester United?"

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