Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has expressed concern over his players reintentrating into club football after switching up their styles of play at the World Cup. The Dutchman suggested that the mid-season break may have disrupted his work in trying to create a cohesive unit at Old Trafford, following a turbulent few years in the Premier League.
Ten Hag’s first weeks at the helm were rocky but United fans are generally pleased that he is steadying the ship and steering it in the right direction. The 52-year-old is famed for his progressive, front-foot style of play which relies on high pressing and working as a unit.
The Red Devils are within touching distance of the top four with one game in hand on Tottenham and Newcastle ahead of them. Despite their upwards trajectory, Ten Hag has urged caution that it may take some time to get back in the swing of things after observing international teams adopting a more reactive, rather than proactive approach at the World Cup.
“I see us progressing and now the first objective is to get back on track because when they come back from the World Cup they have been in different styles and systems,” he told reporters.
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United are back in action against Burnley in the EFL Cup on Wednesday evening but Ten Hag is expected to name a much-changed side. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez are both firmly out of action after contesting a blockbuster World Cup final on Sunday, while the likes of Jadon Sancho and Diogo Dalot are fitness doubts.
Staring into the second half of the season, Ten Hag faces a new set of circumstances with Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture following his fiery interview with Talk TV host Piers Morgan, which aired just before the World Cup. Rumors of friction between the pair may have hindered his ability to create a harmonious group at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils are expected to chase a new forward in January with PSV Eindhoven star Cody Gakpo at the top of their wish list. A £43.1million bid is reportedly being readied and Ten Hag has suggested that plenty more work needs to be done for the club to return to the top.
“I knew it would be a difficult project,” he continued. Manchester United was not in the circumstances that you would expect of them [when I took over] and I think now we’re in the right direction, but we’re far away from where we need to be.”