The Manchester United Paradox – Ten Hag: Experienced Players Underperform, Young Stars Shine

The Manchester United Paradox – Ten Hag: Experienced Players Underperform, Young Stars Shine

Manchester United has endured a truly disappointing season, with a tumultuous journey over the past 9 months. Within this period, the Red Devils’ style of play has exhibited some paradoxes.

Underperforming Experienced Players at MU

In the 2023/24 season, injuries have been the most prominent issue plaguing Manchester United. Rarely has Coach Erik Ten Hag had the personnel he desired at his disposal. However, solely blaming injuries is not entirely fair, as the reality is that most teams have been affected by injury woes this season.

Another crucial issue is the decline of the “veteran” players. Casemiro and Raphael Varane had impressive performances in the 2022/23 season, playing pivotal roles in the team’s success with titles like the League Cup and a top 4 finish in the Premier League.

However, in the 2023/24 season, they experienced a significant decline, to the extent that it left everyone astonished. While it’s true that these players weren’t performing at their best compared to a year ago, their slump to such contrasting extremes from the beginning of the season was unexpected.

Players like Casemiro, Varane, Eriksen, or even relatively younger ones with several years of experience at Old Trafford like Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have become subjects of criticism. Their roles remain crucial for Manchester United to contend for titles.

Club legend Wayne Rooney previously criticized experienced players at MU, stating, “For me, the players need to raise their standards. Some players have been at MU for many years and have gone through 4-5 generations of managers, they need to do more for Ten Hag.”

Recently, former defender Nemanja Vidic added, “Erik Ten Hag did very well last season. I think United will be even stronger this season and may even compete for the Premier League title. But it seems like some players, as Wayne Rooney said, have not shown enough determination and fight.”

The former Red Devils captain remarked, “Especially the experienced players, they have been at the club for many years. So, I don’t think the coach is the one with the biggest fault, but rather the players and their mentality. It’s a club issue, not just this year but also in previous years.”

Rising Stars at MU

While players like Casemiro, Varane, Eriksen, Rashford, or Fernandes face harsh criticism, the young talent at MU is thriving and receiving high praise from fans. Players like Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho, or Rasmus Hojlund have become mainstays for the Red Devils in many matches.

Mainoo has been particularly impressive, with the 18-year-old midfielder on the brink of participating in the EURO 2024 finals with the England national team, potentially playing a significant role. Garnacho and Hojlund have also had standout periods, carrying much of MU’s attacking burden.

The paradox of experienced MU players underperforming while young talents shine has become a recurring issue for MU, especially under Ten Hag. When the Dutch coach took charge at Old Trafford, there were rumors that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo would not have a place in the Red Devils’ lineup. And that speculation turned out to be true. However, in 2023, CR7 still remained the top scorer in professional football with 54 goals for both club and country.

If a player like Ronaldo struggles in Ten Hag’s system, it’s no surprise that players like Casemiro, Varane, or Eriksen experience a decline. And the fault lies not only with the players but also with how the coach utilizes them. Casemiro, Varane, and Eriksen have had illustrious careers, but under Ten Hag, they seem like players past their prime.

Recall Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. At the age of 37, Ryan Giggs could still start in the 2011 Champions League final, providing the assist for Wayne Rooney’s equalizer. Paul Scholes, at 36, came on as a substitute in the second half. Rio Ferdinand, then 32, started the match, Park Ji Sung was 30, and Evra was nearing 30. Especially goalkeeper Van Der Sar, at 40, played in the final before retiring.

Under Sir Alex, young players at MU played crucial roles but couldn’t be the main driving force. The Red Devils then were always a blend of the experience of senior players with the energy of the younger generation. But the current MU team lacks this balance.


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