For club managers, the past six weeks have been a time of reflection and adjustment. They will look back on what happened and map out a roadmap for a five-month sprint of the second half of the season.
Erik ten Hag spent 21 matches as Manchester United manager in 14 weeks and won 14 of them. The first part of the first season was a relative success, although the Reds got off to a slow start.
The Dutch coach handled the issue of Cristiano Ronaldo skillfully and brought a sublime style of play to the Old Trafford team. Ten Hag is exploiting the best players, the signings are excellent and also help Man Utd ready to win a place in the top 4.
But that will not mean anything if Man Utd has problems between now and the end of May. Ten Hag’s first season in the hot seat at Old Trafford will be judged on what comes next.
Until May 28, there are 24 Premier League matches to take place and possibly many more in the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League arenas. There are dangers lurking for Ten Hag and United.
Basically, they are short on attack and face a difficult January transfer window in an attempt to add a striker.. There will not be an easy choice in the transfer market. The price is not cheap either.
In the Premier League, they are 4 points ahead of Liverpool, but coach Jurgen Klopp’s teachers and students can go ahead at any time. United have looked to be catching up with Tottenham in recent weeks, but let’s not forget Antonio Conte’s side have always been formidable in the sprint.
To make this season a huge success, Ten Hag has two goals. The first is to secure a place in the top four and return to the Champions League. It is imperative to attract top targets next summer and increase revenue, especially at a time when the club is about to change hands.
The second is to win a trophy and ensure that Man Utd ends a six-year title drought. The Red Devils have not won a trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was very close but couldn’t get his hands on the glory.
Ten Hag is clearly a good coach and is arguably better at managing than Solskjaer, but winning something will give him even more credibility. A win over Burnley will send Man Utd into the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
They also have a home game in the FA Cup third round against Everton. However, the confrontation in the Europa League play-off round is a difficult match with the champion candidate Barcelona.
Therefore, Ten Hag needs to be careful to avoid the prospect of empty-handed.