At his first attempt as manager of Manchester United, Erik ten Hag has led the club to trophy success – their first silverware since winning the Uefa Europa League in 2017. In the Carabao Cup final yesterday at Wembley Stadium, goals from Casemiro and Marcus Rashford sealed a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United.
With the League Cup already in the trophy cabinet, Man Utd will now have their eyes on further glory this season. They are third in the Premier League table, through to the FA Cup fifth round and also into the Europa League round of 16 after beating Barcelona in the two-legged play-offs.
Speaking after the win at Wembley, Ten Hag said that he hopes this cup can be the “inspiration” to “give even more, to be even more collective, to have even more togetherness”. Winning silverware “shows something” and that you are going in a “good direction”, he added. However, “it’s one cup”, it’s February and this has to be the “motivation” to “continue on this pathway”. He urged his players to “be happy for 24 hours”, but “not satisfied”.
‘Only just getting started’
Confirmed as United’s boss at the end of last season, Dutchman Ten Hag started his tenure with a 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton, followed by a 4-0 hammering at Brentford. It was a tough beginning to life at Old Trafford, but in seven months he has turned the team’s fortunes around and also showed his mettle by solving the Cristiano Ronaldo dilemma.
There is a “change in mood” at the club and the work of Ten Hag has been “central to the switch”, said Phil McNulty on BBC Sport. It may be “too early to make definitive judgements”, but he has the “feel of a transformative manager”, with an “air of authority and tactical acumen” – and now has “a trophy to prove it”.
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright agreed that the former Ajax coach has “transformed” United. He knows that silverware is the “only currency that really matters” at Old Trafford, but also understands the “weight of history”, and the importance of the “club’s identity”. Nine months in, Ten Hag is “only just getting started”.
A new age for United?
This was “Ten Hag’s triumph”, said Oliver Holt in the Daily Mail. He has only been in charge of the Red Devils since the summer, but he has “changed the character” of the club. “Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he has changed it back.”
A “symbol” of that change, this was a victory for the “attitudes he has altered” and the “values he has instilled”. It was also a victory for “the notion that authority is vested in the manager”, not in “preening superstar players” like Ronaldo or Paul Pogba, who “seek to wrest it from them”.
Yesterday’s match was a “pleasingly old-fashioned occasion”, said Jonathan Wilson in The Guardian. “Spiky and tense, colourful and noisy”, it was a Wembley final “like they used to be”. It may not have been “a game for the ages”, but there was “enough incident to hold the attention” and to “provide triggers” for future memories. The win may prove the “herald of a new age” for Manchester United, but it may also be “one of the last of its kind, a memorial for the old football”.