Ten Hag is to Man Utd what Southgate has been to England – a seemingly underwhelming boss sweeping away comedic chaos

THE Cristiano Ronaldo circus has left town, the bitter Civil War with the Glazers is ­ending and Erik ten Hag grows in authority by the day.

The Premier League — remember that? — is back in ten days  and its most famous club, Manchester United, are threatening to sweep away a decade of confusion and despair.

ReutersErik ten Hag is attempting to lead Man United out of the doldrums[/caption]

Pep Guardiola, so often ahead of his time, blurted it out not long before the World Cup break.

“I have the feeling United are coming back,” said Manchester City’s great sage. “Finally, United is coming back. I like what I see of United right now.”

Guardiola actually sounded glad about it. He arrived at the Etihad in 2016, just as Jose Mourinho was rolling into Old Trafford.

It was supposed to be the renewal of a great managerial rivalry, an epic clash of styles, forged in the crucible of Spanish Clasicos — but it turned out to be a mismatch.

City were built to succeed, United to fail.

Six-and-a-half years later, with Mourinho long gone, Guardiola has finally detected a worthy challenge emerging from across Manchester.

And the City boss was speaking before the end of the toxic soap opera which was Ronaldo’s second coming, as well as the news that the Glazers, those absentee slum landlords who have presided over a decade of mismanagement since Alex Ferguson’s retirement, are selling up.

Ten Hag, an intelligent man with a quiet decisiveness and a welcome aversion to bulls**t, is getting what he wished for.


The Dutchman is to United what Gareth Southgate has been to England, a seemingly underwhelming appointment, who is sweeping away a ­culture of comedic chaos.

And since the Premier League broke up for its six-week holiday, no club has improved in mood like United.

Ronaldo was dealt with swiftly and decisively, just as the Glazers finally bowed to green-and-gold pressure and announced their intention to go.

Ten Hag has been blessed with a second “pre-season”, especially useful for a new manager, and, in Spain this week, he has spoken with honesty and a welcome lack of sugar-coating about Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire and the prospect of new ownership.

This is not to suggest United can win the title this season. Just two games ago, they chucked in a  dismal 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa, and they stand 11 points behind leaders Arsenal.

But a return to Champions League football — which had looked an impossibility when the Ten Hag era opened with a home defeat by Brighton and a thorough humping at Brentford — looks very much on the cards.

After ten years of United spaffing money on high-profile flops, there have been promising signs from Ten Hag’s new recruits.

Casemiro is the world-class holding midfielder United have craved for years.

GettyGareth Southgate has led England into a new era of optimism[/caption]

AFPMan Utd entered the World Cup break with a feeling of optimism[/caption]

Sniggering about the physical stature of Red Dwarf centre-half Lisandro Martinez has been silenced because it turned out Ten Hag, who had managed the Argentinian at Ajax, realised size isn’t everything.

Antony, another arrival from Ajax, looks capable of becoming an A-list showman for the Theatre of Dreams.

And Christian Eriksen is a masterstroke free transfer who could have a similar impact to Teddy Sheringham, another supreme craftsman who arrived at United when he was the wrong side of 30.

Marcus Rashford has been revived, the 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho is a thrilling prospect and a January move for Dutch striker Cody Gakpo is a tantalising possibility with United perhaps only a centre-forward short of becoming an elite team again.

United have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham and have drawn at Chelsea under Ten Hag.

Their next three league opponents — Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth — might have been hand-picked as a springboard into the second half of the campaign.

Nothing is certain, with Guardiola having extended his City contract, with Newcastle already a serious proposition after a mere sprinkling of Saudi oil money, with Arsenal reborn under Mikel Arteta, with Liverpool still strong and Chelsea still stinking rich.

But there are signs that United — “finally”, as Guardiola emphasised — are on their way back to sanity, perhaps even greatness.

City spanked United 6-3 in early October but when the next Manchester derby comes around on January 14, there may be a genuine sense of revival and hope around Old Trafford.

Ten Hag doesn’t possess the ego or the CV of Mourinho or Louis van Gaal, nor the emotional connection of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

His appointment was a shot in the dark but, suddenly, United can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stop starting late England

ONE largely overlooked aspect of England’s performances in Qatar was the fact that they started badly in four games out of five.

After an excellent opening against Iran, England never got going against the United States, they didn’t click until half-time against Wales, or for the first half an hour against Senegal, nor until France took a 17th-minute lead in Saturday night’s quarter-final.

Whether Gareth Southgate stays or goes, England must start turning up for work on time.

GettyEngland made a habit of starting slowly in Qatar[/caption]

Griez is the word for France’s Cup

AFTER France’s semi-final win over Morocco, many headlines heralded a “Messi-Mbappe dream final”.

And yet France’s Antoine Griezmann, not Kylian Mbappe nor Lionel Messi, has been the most influential player of this tournament.

It may be a dream for the Qataris to have their two prized possessions at Paris Saint-Germain slugging it out.

But last time I looked, football was still a team game, and France have a better team than Argentina.

APFrance are about more than just Kylian Mbappe[/caption]

Big Sam’s got magic Dutch

IT’S a shame Holland had already lined up Ronald Koeman to replace Louis van Gaal as manager after the World Cup.

While watching the national team that once gave us “total football” lumping it up to two big men in their epic quarter-final defeat to Argentina, it felt as if there was only one man worthy of inheriting Van Gaal’s team.

Sam Allardyce could finally have fulfilled his self-professed destiny of lifting a major international trophy.

PAThe Dutch should give Big Sam a call[/caption]

Steve’s crowd pleaser

STEVE WILSON, the BBC commentator who should be the heir to John Motson and Barry Davies but somehow never receives due credit, came out with the best line I’ve heard this tournament during the France v Morocco semi-final.

With the vast Moroccan support creating an almighty din, Wilson stated that — unlike most games of this World Cup — the match was being played in front of “a crowd not an audience”.

Only a handful of nations — including Morocco and Argentina  — have enjoyed a large, authentic following in Qatar.

Most games have been played out in front of Mexican-waving neutral tourists and the atmospheres have been weird.

And while we’re on the subject of TV commentary, one request please . . . 

No matter which channel it’s on, or which competition it’s in, can any big-match coverage please feature the magnificent Ally McCoist on co-comms?

Ally McCoist’s commentary has gone down a treat yet againGetty

No riddle it’s Jimmy

THE extraordinary and revolutionary positivity of England’s Test team is rightly being marvelled at around the cricketing world.

But despite England reinventing the wheel under Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, they would not have won a series in Pakistan without Jimmy Anderson, still doing what he’s always done, at the grand old age of 40.

GettyJames Anderson remains the main man aged 40[/caption]

L’Eq them talk

I ALWAYS love the outrage over the “notorious” player ratings in French sports paper L’Equipe — Phil Foden got four out of ten and Jude Bellingham five after England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by France.

But if you’ve ever met any L’Equipe writers, you will understand the whole thing is just a glorious attention-seeking wind-up.

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