Erik ten Hag likes attacking football, making ambitious substitutions and, best of all, winning. The Man Utd manager is basically Sir Alex Ferguson’s twin.
There is little the nation’s football journalists love more than talking about the past, which just so happens to be when their relevance was at its peak as everyone bought newspapers and relied on them for insight and information.
No longer, of course. But those pangs of nostalgia remain as powerful as ever, so when Erik ten Hag goes for dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson on Tuesday, he is asked about it during his press conference on Wednesday before a game against Barcelona on Thursday, the reaction to which brings us to these match report snippets on Friday:
‘Erik ten Hag, who has transformed an ailing monolith with his quiet authority over the last six months, had enjoyed dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson earlier in the week. And this was a hedonistic reminder of Fergie times, a retro night which made you recognise, after years of slumber, what this once-mighty club is all about’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun.
Does any and every Man Utd victory really have to reduced to ‘that was just like under Ferguson!’?
‘Erik ten Hag’s dinner date with Sir Alex Ferguson certainly did the trick. Just 48 hours after tapping into the wisdom of Manchester United’s greatest boss at a Cheshire restaurant, Ten Hag masterminded one of the great European wins at Old Trafford. Ferguson enjoyed plenty of those during his glittering 26-and-a-half year reign and pumped his fists high up in the stands when United scored the winner’ – David McDonnell, Daily Mirror.
A truly sensational ‘just 48 hours after’ there.
‘On the touchline, Erik ten Hag held up two clenched fists. Up in the stands, Sir Alex Ferguson was congratulated by his old rival Howard Wilkinson. Whatever Ten Hag and Ferguson discussed over that dinner on Tuesday night was well worth it’ – Chris Wheeler, Daily Mail.
Not sure Ferguson gave Ten Hag any tips on how to exploit Xavi’s high defensive line, how to counter Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets’ double pivot or how to nullify Robert Lewandowski. Nor does it really seem like Ten Hag needs the advice.
‘There was more than a touch of Sir Alex Ferguson about Erik ten Hag as Manchester United finally found another famous European night’ – Jason Burt, Daily Telegraph.
Apparently ‘this was undoubtedly Ferguson-esque’ – because Man Utd were sent out to ‘attack at speed’, they made positive substitutions and Ten Hag’s post-match interview ‘could have been scripted by Ferguson, especially as he added that – above all – he likes to win’. And famously only the Ferguson ‘playbook’ contains stuff about playing on the front foot, being ambitious with mid-game changes and wanting to win. Those were specifically his things.
The 81-year-old is mentioned eight times in Burt’s report about ‘Ferguson’s rightful successor’. It’s about eight too many references to a manager who retired a decade and five permanent managers ago. Ten Hag is undoubtedly an excellent coach who is doing a brilliant job but it’s a bit boring and one-note to compare him to a phenomenal former Man Utd boss every time he does something good. Did we not get this out of our systems when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, someone with a fraction of the Dutchman’s ability and acumen, who was also hailed as Ferguson’s spiritual heir by the media at one stage, had a good game?
And the Betis are in
‘Arsenal land tricky Europa League last-16 draw against Sporting Lisbon while Man Utd get easy route after Barcelona win’ – The Sun website.
Man Utd did just beat the runaway La Liga leaders but describing Real Betis, fifth in the Spanish league, as an ‘easy route’ seems pretty harsh, even if they are heavy favourites.
No rest for the wicked
‘Ten Hag made no attempt to rest first-teamers ahead of Wembley, it would have been ill-mannered in the extreme to disrespect guests of this calibre’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun.
It would also have been really weird.
‘Ten Hag is understood to have dismissed any notion of a parade out of hand as he will immediately switch focus to preparing his side for Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against West Ham after Sunday’s EFL Cup final.
‘The Dutchman’s attitude is in stark contrast to that of opponents Newcastle, who as Sportsmail revealed earlier this week have planned a city centre parade for Tuesday if Eddie Howe’s side win their first major trophy for 54 years at Wembley’ – Matt Hughes, Daily Mail.
How strange that a club which won two trophies as recently as 2017 would celebrate silverware a little differently to one which has won nothing for 54 years.
Welcome to the black and white parade
‘Newcastle United will not hold an open-top bus parade if they fail to win the Carabao Cup, unlike in previous years when returning defeated from Wembley’ – Craig Hope, Daily Mail.
‘But we can reveal that, should Eddie Howe and his team end the club’s 54-year wait for silverware by beating Manchester United on Sunday, then they will show off the trophy to supporters.’
‘Van Persie tells Ten Hag the one team to avoid in the Europa last-16 draw’ – The Sun website.
Not sure it’s down to him to be honest.
Non-sequitur of the day
‘Disgraced former Newcastle striker Nile Ranger infuriates fans of his old club by trying to flog 100 Carabao Cup final tickets for up to £2,150 each on Instagram, after spending time in jail for online bank fraud in 2015′ – MailOnline.
It’s one hell of a journey after the comma.