Move over Liverpool, Ten Hag’s Manchester United are the new mentality monsters

Move over Liverpool, Manchester United Ten Haga are the new mentality monsters - Getty Images/James Gill
Move over Liverpool, Manchester United Ten Haga are the new mentality monsters – Getty Images/James Gill

Two days later and 30+ miles from Anfield, Manchester United’s Erik ten Hag unveiled a display reminiscent of one of the most iconic phrases in the recent English football lexicon.

“Mental monsters,” Jurgen Klopp called his Liverpool players after their stunning 4-0 victory over Barcelona in the 2019 Champions League semi-final.

Less than four years have passed, and given the events, a new contender for the title has emerged. against the same opponents at Old Trafford on Thursday nightand what happened at Anfield on Tuesday.

There, Liverpool looked dominant, self-assured and regained their former unwavering sense of invincibility as they raced ahead by two goals against Real Madrid, only to collapse into a morass of individual mistakes and recriminations.

At Old Trafford, United, who had been beaten hopelessly in the first half by a eight-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, Barça responded with a stunning second 45 minutes.

There were several tactical changes by manager Erik ten Hag around a remarkable twist, and one could conclude that the United manager made a mistake with his original choice.

But given that United’s last five eliminations from European competition have come against Spanish opposition, it was a win that involved much more than X’s and O’s, the movement of pieces on a football chessboard.

‘Culture reset’ was the buzzword at Old Trafford in the days when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promised United they would return to their old ‘Fergie time’ habits and implausible heroism on their last legs under his beloved mentor and former manager Sir Alex Ferguson . It turned out to be a false dawn.

Bruno Fernandes after Manchester United's victory over Barcelona - Move over Liverpool, Manchester United Ten Haga - new mental monsters - Getty Images/Robbie Jay Barrat
Bruno Fernandes after Manchester United’s victory over Barcelona – Move over Liverpool, Manchester United Ten Haga – new mental monsters – Getty Images/Robbie Jay Barrat

Looking back and a decade of largely painful experience, these United supporters can now say that a cultural reset has undeniably arrived. Call them ‘mentality monsters’ if you like, although given the phrase’s close association with Liverpool and Klopp, it’s unlikely to be seen on many shirts owned by United fans in the coming months.

But in any case, focus on a run of 16 wins and two draws in the last 18 games at Old Trafford. on a losing streak in their last 29 games, starting with a bizarre 6-3 derby loss to City on the first weekend in October.

Pay special attention to the fact that the ten Haga team is the only team in Europe to still compete in four trophies and have now won or drawn eight times this season in all competitions – monsters are born from such basic mentality.

Klopp, obviously. looked like a confused man at Anfield on Tuesday as the tie began to drift away from him, and the lack of depth in his team, as well as the plummeting individual scores among his staff, left him little hope of rectifying the situation as it grew more dire.

But ten Hag never looked flustered, nor did he for most of the season. even in the dark early days humiliating defeats to Brighton and Brentford.

Erik ten Hag celebrates victory over Barcelona
Erik ten Hag celebrates victory over Barcelona

Not for him is the touchline spectacle and the bullying of the fourth referees, so beloved by most of his peers, although the scale of this draw was such that even he received an early lecture from the French referee last night, along with his rival Xavi, for arguing his position. solutions.

Instead, ten Hag kept his composure, and this was reflected in his players, from Bruno Fernandes, who bounced back from a missed penalty in the first half and scored two goals, to Fred, whose poor first half gave way to an equalizer and highly influential second United took over. midfield and, of course, the winner of the Anthony match.

The €100 million Brazilian has endured a mixed start, injuries and his chronic one-footedness, raising questions about whether he justifies the fee.

But his half-time appearance, along with the return of attacking players to more familiar positions, changed the game.

It turned out that this is exactly what the mental monster looks like – a one-legged Brazilian winger, whose stamina and character were called into question, but he reacted spectacularly to his team’s most important game of the season.

“I know he can handle it,” ten Hag said to the mental monster Antony. “He is brave, I can feel it. What he brought in the second half was what we needed with his backtracking, his dribbling and of course his goals. He’s brave, he’ll go for it, and when he gets the chance, he’ll strike.”

All of this will sound familiar to United fans who lived until the last decade and were bred on such strength of character during the Fergie years. Instead of Martinez and Varane, read Vidic and Ferdinand; instead of Casemiro it reads kin.

“I think we have some great people on our team,” said ten Hag. Rafa and Licha Martinez. Casemiro, of course. Even with setbacks, they move on. They want a result and if you believe in that, you have to keep going even if you miss a cheap penalty.”


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