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Manchester United News: Does Eric ten Hag know what he wants after a difficult pre-season?

There was superficial confidence and goodwill in Eric ten Hag when he met the press on Friday to talk about the start of the season that would define his professional career.

Football director John Murtaugh started poking his head around the door to make sure everything was OK. laughter.

This is what it looks like before the season. No one has lost the game. And with a new manager in charge, it seems that the human nature’s tendency toward optimism shouldn’t be as bad as it used to be.

Manchester United manager Eric ten Hag addresses the media on the eve of the new season

That was before a question about Ronaldo’s departure before full-time in last Sunday’s friendly drew a slick response. It’s not right,” Ten Hag said. “So do your research, many players have left.”

This is standard executive press conference psychology. It tries to deflect a very difficult character problem by making it a general collective problem. Except this is Ronaldo, unless United win every game from now until the end of the season, until his agent Jorge Mendes convinces him of an acceptable move or United kick him out. The name comes up at every press conference.

The exchange had the tone of a new teacher enacting a law with a particularly active group of 11th graders. The grimace was peppered with flirtatiousness designed to suggest that he could be a delightful teacher, if only everyone would stand in line and show him respect.

He was asked about his duty to attack and to produce winning, compelling football. “You talk like a Dutchman!” he said with a smile. “They always want to play great football. That’s why I’m here and I like it. You want to win and you want to win in a certain way. : aggressive, brave, adventurous.

United's pre-season dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo's desire to leave

United’s pre-season dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave

Ten Hag is confident he can bring progress and success to United supporters

Ten Hag is confident he can bring progress and success to United supporters

“It’s part of the Manchester United culture and we want to embrace it. That’s the mentality, the attitude.

And when asked about United’s failure to develop young players, he entertained a cheery row of optimists everywhere.

“Don’t look back, look forward,” he said. “I feel the potential of many players and I am confident that we can grow the team. [the past], it’s obvious, but now we have to move forward. The past cannot be changed, but the future can be changed.

All of the above is true, but it could also be David Brent at his best refreshing. At United, the past is always with you. Next year will be 10 years since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and 10 years since United last won the title. It almost never jumps guns. It wouldn’t be so bold to say United won’t win the Premier League this season. The question is whether it will be another ten years before they try again.

Ten Hag chats with Ronaldo during the pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano

Ten Hag chats with Ronaldo during the pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano

Highlights from the past decade could fit into one of United’s social media gurus’ beloved 30-second TikTok clips. His 2016 FA Cup win for Louis van Gaal. And it might just be a brief clip of heady optimism spawned by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comeback at Paris Saint-Germain.

United now live for an odd number of victories against Manchester City and Liverpool and a top four finish. Leicester City have a more impressive trophy record over the past decade. Joining the fray is Dutch coach Ten Hag. He has performed phenomenally with his Ajax but has never coached in a major European league. United may object to that, and Ferguson was absent in 1986.

Still, success in a league that is far more competitive and developing than Sir Alex had to conquer can be achieved by meticulously preparing the ground for him. , you’ll want to give Ten Hag the best possible chance. After all, it’s been clear to him since March that this is United’s direction.

Before the Asia/Australia tour, you might imagine all the key players had been signed. That Ronaldo’s problems are sorted in some way. That the team is going to be a lot better than it was at this time last year.

The end of the campaign marks 10 years since Sir Alex Ferguson's United last won the Premier League title.

The end of the campaign marks 10 years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s United last won the Premier League title.

None of the above apply. Anthony Martial was turned down by Sevilla during his loan spell, but he was the number one pre-season hopeful until his injury. Ten Hag is said to have revealed that he had a job when he was offered the job. He needed former Ajax player Frenkie de Jong so he could play in the style he wanted.

It was a complicated move. United have overpaid in the past and Barcelona are withholding some of De Jong’s deferred wages, meaning the player won’t move until payment is made. Still, if this was the most important transfer of the summer, it fell to CEO Richard Arnold and Murtaugh to make it happen. They haven’t done that yet, and Scott McTominay and Fred can’t play the way Ten Hag wants them out of midfield. Christian Eriksen might still get there.

The transfers of Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Marasia and Christian Eriksen that have taken place so far have a sense of complementing the team rather than paradigm-shifting, but Eriksen may inspire. .

Ronaldo will be the talk of the season. Every exasperated sigh, every grimace as he leaves the pitch is micro-analysed, and judging by Ten Hag’s reaction so far, the manager is going to get more and more frustrated with it.

United have been unhappy with Barcelona's signing of Frenkie de Jong this summer.

United have been unhappy with Barcelona’s signing of Frenkie de Jong this summer.

And it’s not really Ronaldo’s fault that he’s the biggest beast in United’s jungle compared to owner Joel Glaser, CEO Richard Arnold and Ten Hag. It is a situation that did not allow The existence of such a situation is a function of United’s decline over the past nine years.

They re-signed Ronaldo from a position of weakness and despair, and in the thirteen years since he left Old Trafford, the player has grown into a phenomenon almost as big as the club itself, far more powerful than his manager. Done. It never ends well.

On Friday, I can’t help but remember another optimistic manager who walked into these press conferences with the same confidence and intent as nine years ago. He, too, had yet to be tested at this level.He had hoped in vain that Barcelona would sell Cesc Fabregas due to dithering in the summer transfer market.

When I watched Ten Hug on Friday, I couldn’t help but think of David Moyes. He’s a good guy and a fine coach who’s struggled with United’s progress.

It took Moyes almost a decade to regain his reputation from his experience at United. You wish Ten Hag better. But you fear the worst.