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Is Ten Hag good enough for Manchester United?

The big debate this week is without doubt what is going on at Manchester United? Next week it is likely that Sir James Ratcliffe’s purchase…

The big debate this week is without doubt what is going on at Manchester United? Next week it is likely that Sir James Ratcliffe’s purchase of 25% of the club’s shares will finally be completed. Make no mistake, Ratcliffe hasn’t become a shareholder just to sit in the director’s box with a glass of wine enjoying an afternoon watching the Reds. Once he has his feet under the table he will quickly make his presence felt with some sweeping changes and all with the approval of majority shareholders, the Glazer brothers.

United were terrible against Newcastle last weekend and several things pointed to questions that need to be answered.

Is Erik Ten Hag good enough to coach at United?

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Several of the senior players have lost confidence in him and his training methods. At the Carrington Road training facility he literally has installed a punishing programme which is leaving players exhausted and tired before a Saturday match. Many are confused about what their playing roles are and what his strategy is. He rules with an iron fist which is fine if you are Sir Alex Ferguson but Ten Hag commands no such respect and he has lost many players in the dressing room.

In midweek, after suffering an humiliating beating at Newcastle, many of the players got together and decided they had to give the fans more to cheer about. They boosted their own confidence and enthusiasm and decided to stick together. The difference between Wednesday night and last weekend was as wide as the Grand Canyon. They showed a will to win and whereas Chelsea were very poor, United still had to win the game.

Ten Hag’s ongoing fued with Jadon Sancho is bad for the club and a talented player is forced to kick around with the kid’s academy and eat alone away from the other United players. Sancho will not apologise and Ten Hag would rather United suffer than be the first to end the argument between the two men. It is a ridiculous situation and Ratcliffe won’t stand for it, especially as he admires Sancho as a player.

Ten Hag had a public row on the field last weekend when he hauled Martial off the pitch for his pathetic performance and his total lack of commitment. What does that tell you?

Leaving world class Raphael Verane on the bench has mystified many who follow United but Ten Hag says it is for strategic reasons although even his assistants cannot work out what those strategic reasons are.

Marcus Rashford is a ghost of the player who did so well last season but this year he doesn’t have the enthusiasm to run back and defend and usually neither does Bruno Fernandes who is supposed to be Ten Hag’s man on the pitch as captain. Like McTominay on Wednesday he showed the desire is still there in his will to win for the fans but does he have the will to win for Ten Hag.

Much will become clear when United meet Bournemouth this weekend because although they are nearer to the bottom of the league they are still formidable opponents. Will that same focus and desire displayed against Chelsea still be there for the United players?

Time to bring back Ramsdale

It is time for Mikel Arteta to admit that as the Gunner’s coach he got it wrong with goalkeeper David Raya. The mid-week match exposed the keeper as too inexperienced and not strong enough to cope with the intense physical pressure of Luton Town who were unlucky to lose to a 97th minute Declan Rice headed goal. Raya has now played three poor matches and twice he was beaten inside his own area by strong physical headers from Luton Town. Twice he came for the ball and twice he failed to collect although Gabriel Osho’s Luton goal was more a defensive error in not marking him. Aaron Ramsdale, a superb goalkeeper, was watching from the bench and no doubt thinking “why am I not out there with my team?”

Arsenal next face a difficult match against Aston Villa and have worked this week on improving Oleksandr Zinchenko’s defensive failings. Although he did not play against Luton in mid-week, last weekend he was instrumental in assisting Martin Odegaard to score Arsenal’s second goal in a 2-1 win against Wolves but was caught more than once, losing the ball in defence which allowed Matheus Cunha to get one back for Wolves.

Matip out long-term with knee injury

Having finally sorted out his defensive problems, Jurgen Klopp now has to accept his settled back line has to change again. After speaking with my sources at Liverpool I am told Cameroon international Matip could be out for quite some time but as I write this the team is waiting for the results of a scan to determine the exact extent of the injury but according to Klopp it doesn’t look good. His options to replace Matip are Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate and Jarell Quansah.

Changing managers will not save Sheffield

Luckless Sheffield United lost their coach this week with Chris Wider taking over again but frankly I cannot see him preventing the Blades from climbing back out of their relegation battle and now they are bottom of the league. Facing Thomas Frank’s Brentford is no easy task this weekend even if they are at home. The Bees have suffered an injury crisis with eight first team players out of action and striker Ivan Toney is still suspended. Neal Maupay is filling in and doing a splendid job. It is amazing to think that Brentford, for so long a league one or two team have done exceptionally well and coach Thomas Frank said this week, “I still think it is a fairytale that we are still here.” Franks said his aim is to achieve a top ten position again this season.

Why is Verane on the bench?

Four times Champions League winner and World Cup winner Raphael Verane has only been in Erik Ten Hag’s starting line up once in 11 games. Speculation has been rife with rumours suggesting he will leave in January such is his disappointment with Ten Hag. However, after extensive investigative work this week I am led to believe that he will honour his contract until 2025 and fight to win back his place. He will only leave if the coach makes it clear Verane is no longer part of his plans with Harry Maguire back to his best form. Ten Hag dismissed the rumours that he and Verane had fallen out and explained that it was for tactical reasons the Frenchman dropped to the bench and he has recently preferred Jonny Evans, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw to support Maguire.

Dubravka’s chance to shine

The injury to Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope has been described as a bitter blow to Eddie Howe’s Champions League ambitions and winning the PL this season. However, I am not so sure. In back up keeper Martin Dubravka, Howe has a more than able deputy who has been tested over and again and rarely let’s his side down. With Pope out for several months according to his medical team, this is Dubravka’s chance to cement a starting place in the team. However, I have received two phone calls from Spain where ex-Man Utd keeper David De Gea is currently staying and I understand that Newcastle have reached out to his agent to see if he would be interested in going to St James’ Park. The only problem with that is what happens when Pope has recovered and back in the Newcastle team? De Gea will not be content with sitting in the stands watching each game.

Newcastle face a tough game away at Tottenham on Sunday and Dubravka should be between the posts and I suspect he will be busy with two teams who play entertaining and attacking football.

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