Erik ten Hag's first Manchester United lesson comes from disrespectful media

When it comes to the media, Erik ten Hag has already learned that respect does not work both ways.

At Ten Hag’s first Manchester United press conference, the new manager went around the room shaking hands with journalists as a warm welcome.

It added a human touch and was a show of respect. Unfortunately the media do not share the same feelings towards the Dutchman.

While it would be naive to consider Ten Hag immune from criticism, you could have imagined it might take the media a little more than 24 hours to start sticking the knife in. Sadly not.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

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Ten Hag’s first Manchester United lesson

Ten Hag’s first Manchester United lesson is not to trust the media. He will have known this already, but now he can be sure. Some of the articles over the past 24 hours have been an embarrassment.

The Telegraph launched an attack, dubbing him ‘Erik Ten Months’, suggesting he could be sacked after less than one season.

The article described Ten Hag’s answers to questions as ‘opaque’, and labelled his unveiling itself as ‘bizarrely low key’, before comparing him to former Tottenham boss Jacques Santini and Portsmouth’s Alain Perrin, who both failed to make an impression in the Premier League. Shameful.

The Mail went a step further, dragging out a ‘body language expert’ to pick holes in Ten Hag’s approach. At this point it would be appropriate to say, words fail me…

There were then the usual words taken out of context. Ten Hag was asked about Liverpool and Manchester City’s dominance, to which he responded, when asked if their dominance would last as long as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola want it to: “They play, in this moment, really fantastic football – both Liverpool and Manchester City.

“But you will always see that an era can come to an end. I am looking forward to battling with them and I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League will want to do that.”

This was predictably twisted to a headline: “I’ll knock the big two off their perch! Erik ten Hag vows to end Manchester City and Liverpool’s domination of the Premier League,” by The Mail.

Yes it was a quote which will be remembered fondly if Ten Hag achieves success at United, but his comments were not made with the same gusto of Sir Alex, and the paper knows precisely what it is doing, attempting to set him up for failure.

There was more from The Mail too, which attempted to brand Ten Hag as naive for focusing on the fact Manchester United finished second in 2020/21 as reason for optimism. The Dutchman had claimed this was evidence that this current squad is not quite as bad as sixth this season suggests, and he’s right, the true quality is somewhere in between.

Criticism of Manchester United’s manager is par for the course. You only need to look at the way the media tore into the shreds of Ralf Rangnick’s side after the final day of the season like hungry vultures, citing anonymous sources and painting a picture of incompetence. Right or wrong, they seemed to be overjoyed to be ripping into United’s problems, and twisting the knife.

Ten Hag may have been forgiven that there would be some courtesy extended beyond the first 24 hours at least, a grace period.

Rather than build him up first to knock him down, the media are skipping straight to act two, starting by ramping up the criticism and hostility before he has even started.

Ten Hag has at times had a spiky relationship with the press in the Netherlands. He has no time for nonsense and won’t hesitate to put people in their place if he needs to.

The last laugh will be with Ten Hag if he wins trophies, but this is a long way off. The media know this, and can’t wait to pile in if another Manchester United manager fails, and will happily give him a helping hand to do so.

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