Now we know exactly what Erik ten Hag said in his first press conference as Manchester United manager because we are looking at a full transcript published by the official Manchester United website.
We know he was asked this question:
‘There is a belief that no-one will win a title while we are in this Klopp, Guardiola cycle of dominance. Do you agree with this?’
And we know he answered by saying…
“In this moment I admire them. I admire them both. They play, in this moment, really fantastic football, both Liverpool and Manchester City. But you will always see that an era can come to an end. I am looking forward to battling with them and I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League will want to do that.”
So far, so anodyne. And he is right: Eras do come to an end.
He was then asked if that era could come to an end before Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola leave and he said these three words:
“I think, yes.”
And that is all he said on the subject because the conversation moved on.
You know what he didn’t say?
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) May 24, 2022
And the Mail were not alone here. Nowhere close.
The Sun go with ‘I’ll reign on your parade!’ and the Daily Mirror opt for ‘RED ALERT’, merrily going about their business of pretending that Ten Hag said something that he patently did not. Because he is not a f***ing idiot.
Welcome to England, Erik, where you can be very careful about what you say but the press will just pretend you said something contentious anyway.
‘Erik Ten Hag has vowed to end Manchester City and Liverpool’s domination of English football after officially taking over as Manchester United manager.
‘The 52-year-old former Ajax boss was unveiled at Old Trafford and immediately set his sights on breaking the stranglehold of United’s two greatest rivals.
‘Asked if that was possible while Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp remain in charge, Ten Hag said: ‘I think so, yeah. Liverpool and Manchester City play fantastic football, but you will always see an era come to an end — I am looking forward to a battle with them.”‘
Odd how Chris Wheeler missed out the end of the quote where he said that “I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League will want to do that”.
He vowed (‘made a solemn promise’) absolutely f*** all. What he did was make a prediction that their era would end; maybe he thinks Chelsea can challenge? Or Tottenham? Or Brentford? Or “all the other clubs in the Premier League”.
And do you know why he did that? Because only an utter fool would take over at one of the biggest clubs in the world and say that basically the title is sewn up for as long as Liverpool and Manchester City want it. And he’s not a fool. Though he probably did not realise that by saying “I think, yes”, that he was opening himself up to this shite…
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) May 23, 2022
Another ‘vow’ (it’s not) and this time there’s also a ‘warns’ and then this:
‘Manchester United boss Ten Hag is convinced he can lead the fallen giants back to the top and topple newly-crowned champions City and their title rivals Liverpool.’
And there’s nothing more convincing than “I think, yes”, especially when – and this seems important – THAT WAS NOT THE QUESTION.
‘The two clubs have shared the last five League titles, but Ten Hag said United can end that era of dominance – despite the Red Devils finishing the season 35 points behind Pep Guardiola’s champions.’
Now you’ve made him look like a ludicrous fantasist when he didn’t say anything of the sort.
He did actually say this when asked how long it might take to challenge for the title again…
“I don’t think about that in this moment. What we are thinking about is that this is a project, which I know always takes time, but I know that in this club – and I have experience with other clubs like Ajax and Bayern Munich – we want to win. We want to win every game, so we go from game to game and then we will see.”
…but oddly, that measured response is conspicuous by its absence from any of these articles. Time? A project? That does not gel with the collective decision to claim that he is making ‘vows’ and issuing ‘warnings’ when he did nothing of the sort.
Of course, Neil Custis is on that particular train in The Sun, writing:
‘ERIK TEN HAG fired a warning to Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp: I’m here to put United back on top.’
As we have very clearly established, he absolutely didn’t. That might and indeed should be his plan but he’s not daft enough to say that in a roomful of journalists, perhaps not realising that they would claim he said it anyway.
Every single writer emerged from that press conference with the same line…
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) May 24, 2022
…having decided in their little huddle that the very mention of Klopp and Guardiola (by them) was the hook on which to hang a pretty bog-standard press conference.
And it wasn’t just the tabloids with The Guardian‘s Jamie Jackson writing: ‘Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United can end the domestic domination of Manchester City and Liverpool under his management.’
He might well ‘believe’ that, but he didn’t sodding say it.
And Paul Hirst of The Times echoes those words by writing that ‘Erik ten Hag believes he can break the stranglehold that Manchester City and Liverpool have on the English game’.
But worst of the lot is James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph, who happily misappropriates the key quote to make his story work.
‘The Dutchman – who will be assisted by Mitchell van der Gaag and former England manager Steve McClaren at Old Trafford – does not believe it will require the departure of Guardiola or Klopp for their cycle of dominance to end.
‘Asked if he could break City and Liverpool’s duopoly, Ten Hag replied: “I think yeah.”‘
He wasn’t asked that though, was he?
You can literally watch that whole sequence here:
Erik Ten Hag talking about ending the Klopp + Guardiola era at Manchester United pic.twitter.com/cMYQoE0clr
— MC (@UtdMicah) May 23, 2022
But by now, the damage has been done; history records he has said he is the man to break the duopoly. Because a group of men in a room decided that he did.