Home » Erik ten Hag’s masterstrokes have re-established Old Trafford as a fortress

Erik ten Hag’s masterstrokes have re-established Old Trafford as a fortress

by Derick Kinoti

Manchester United’s home form has been the foundation on which Erik ten Hag’s and the team’s success has been built this season.

United are currently on a run of 24 unbeaten matches at Old Trafford in all competitions. The last time the team were beaten at home was in September last year by Real Sociedad.

The most home games United have managed to go without tasting defeat is 40 – a feat achieved twice in the club’s illustrious history in 1966 and 2017.

The Red Devils are three home games shy of equalling the club’s highest number of unbeaten matches at Old Trafford in a single season – 27.

This was set in the 2002/03 season when an Alex Ferguson-led side won the Premier League.

As The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell points out, Ten Hag’s men have been significantly aided by luck. United have played a high number of domestic cup ties at the Theatre of Dreams. United played all rounds of the Carabao Cup at their iconic grounds before winning it against Newcastle at Wembley.

The same occurrence was repeated in the FA Cup, a competition United are now in the semi-finals of. The semis will see the 20-time English champions clash against Brighton at Wembley later this month.

Key to the club’s imperious form on home turf is a number of tweaks made by Erik ten Hag and club staff.

Whitwell reveals, “He [Ten Hag] has asserted himself and gained use of prime suites in the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, which the club have handed over for the first time this season, so his squad can report to Old Trafford three and a half hours before kick-off.”

Previously, players were required to drive to Old Trafford the night before a game before hunkering down at the Lowry Hotel. Final meetings were held in the morning after which United’s stars were coached to the stadium to play.

“Previous managers who may have wished for the same setup were denied but chief executive Richard Arnold has given the football side of the club, led by John Murtough, more authority compared to commercial concerns.”

Whitwell adds, “They have their pre-game meals in the suites before Ten Hag and his staff conduct their final meetings. Set piece routines and responsibilities are confirmed and analysis is revised. The whole process is described as a much smoother experience than the previous one.”

The players are said to be appreciative of the fact that they are now allowed an extra night with their loved ones as opposed to converging at the Lowry Hotel.

Another change made by Ten Hag is in regard to the dugouts. The Dutchman prompted the club to move United’s bench to be closer to the noisiest section of the fans.

“Customarily, United’s bench has been the further of the two from the tunnel, which is in the corner of the pitch, and the closest to the areas housing the away fans. Ten Hag has had this switched around. He did not want to have to walk past the opposition coaching staff to reach his seat.”

United have repeatedly honoured fan requests intended to elevate the atmosphere within United.

Ten Hag is especially keen on leaning on the vibrancy within Old Trafford to give his players the extra push needed during games.

Supporters have also been given more leeway to protest against the parasitic Glazer family. Anti-Glazer signs and banners are now a common sight directly above the tunnel. The result is that the messages contained within these banners are now being broadcasted for the whole world to see. This has enhanced the backing given to the team.

Whitwell details that under Ten Hag, United are averaging 2.40 points per home game – a figure that is only behind Arsenal and Manchester City. The Reds have scored 27 goals at home and only conceded eight.

If United win all their remaining Premier League home games against Chelsea, Aston Villa, Wolves and Fulham, they could end the campaign on 48 home points.

Ten Hag has on multiple occasions emphasized the need to ensure Old Trafford’s fortress status and the United boss is at the moment getting his wish.

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