A struggling Manchester United feels like a distant memory now. Still, it was only a few months ago when the Red Devils were battling to find any tangible form.
Under current boss Erik ten Hag, they’re not only winning games but also playing together as a well-oiled unit that can grind out results in tough games.
Over before it began
After ending United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s tenure in November 2021, the Old Trafford top brass favoured an interim manager over a permanent replacement (via The Mirror).
This gave them time to assess their options.
Ten Hag’s transformation of the side has shown that their patient approach paid dividends.
That’s not to say that every decision made by the club was flawless after Solskjaer’s departure. Another ex-United player, Michael Carrick, was placed at the helm while the club sought out Ralf Rangnick’s signature. As a player, Carrick, familiar with the culture and operations of the club, had also been a member of Solskjaer’s support staff.
While Carrick impressed during his three-game stint, the responsibility to manage the side until the end of the 2021/22 season fell to Rangnick. Rangnick was unable to change United’s fortunes and oversaw a woeful campaign.
The former United no.16 is now thriving in a new role as manager for Championship side Middlesbrough.
When Carrick arrived, Boro were three points shy of the bottom of the table.
What’s more, Carrick suffered a defeat to Preston in his first game in the dugout. Following that loss, Carrick and the Teeside outfit have enjoyed a complete revival winning ten of their last thirteen league games.
Boro has gone from being a relegation certainty to a promotion contender under the guidance of the ex-West Ham and Tottenham playmaker.
Only Burnley and Sheffield United look more decisive in the league. Those two teams aside, Boro are the undisputed frontrunners in the Championship.
Carrick sharpened the blunt edge that was Middlesbrough in a short period, transforming them from ineffectual challengers into universally feared opposition. Boro’s tenacious pressing approach has led to an impressive goal tally of 27 in a mere 14 games and the coveted title of “Team never to take lightly.”
It’s an accomplishment that Carrick’s forerunner, Chris Wilder, could not achieve.
The Middlesbrough resurgence under Carrick’s tutelage has led to the opinion that he should have been given preference to take over United rather than Rangnick.
Grateful for his three-game spell as interim United boss, Carrick shared that Solskjaer had urged him to take the job after his departure. Carrick told The Daily Mail:
“I didn’t just take the job and forget about Ole. He was the first one I spoke to. He said, ‘You have to take it, 100 per cent’, because that’s the man he is. I’ve the utmost respect for him.”
Regardless, it appears a future coaching a side in the Premier League beckons even if the ex-United midfielder is committed to his current job.
Carrick said, “I’m just happy doing what I’m doing. I’m genuinely not chasing anything,” he added last month. “I’m just trying to do the best I can, enjoying the challenge and trying to give back to a club that’s shown a lot of faith in me to give me this chance.”
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