Placing Ten Hag on the Pep spectrum, and Man Utd moving on from De Jong

Editor F365
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

The Mailbox discusses how similar Ten Hag and Guardiola actually are. Also: Firmino, De Jong, Ronaldo, Lionesses and the Championship.

Get your views in to


Ten Hag’s approach
Agree with Andy D on the need for patience and understanding with regards United results this season. I too expect at least a few batterings whilst Ten Hag slowly changes the team and agree that this doesn’t mean the process is flawed. However from what I’ve read the comment of ETH playing a similar style to Pep is a little wide of the mark.

There’s a great article on the ‘Umir Talks’ blog regarding this very comparison. Some of the tactical stuff is a bit dense for me but he basically posits there are two extremes of tactical thinking, player as the most important (think Ancelotti) vs system as the most important (think Sarri). He suggests ETH is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes whilst Pep is more toward the Sarri end. In other words ETH is more willing to change his system to fit the players whereas Pep is more inclined to use players out of their natural position to suit the system.

ETH has definitely been influenced by Pep having worked with him at Bayern for a number of years, though I think its fair to say Pep has had a generational effect on the game as a whole so there won’t be many younger managers who haven’t been influenced by him to some degree. Yet I think the greater tactical flexibility of ETH will suit United more having come off years of player orientated Ole ball and with players like Bruno in the team who seems to be the antithesis to positional discipline. It also goes someway to explaining his apparent obsession with the De Jong transfer, focusing on a key player that allows him to use his preferred system.

Not that I think any of this will help smooth the bumps United will almost certainly encounter this season but it does offer a little reassurance as I believe more pragmatism and less pandering would surely be beneficial for this squad.
Dave, Manchester


Reluctant Red Devils
As a Man Utd fan the ongoing De Jong saga is a particularly frustrating episode, though maybe not for the reasons you might expect. Over the last couple of summers, Man Utd have repeatedly dragged out transfers because of an initial reluctance to pay the money the selling club wanted – we saw this for Sancho and Maguire. This time, the protracted saga is being drawn out by the simple fact that De Jong doesn’t want to sign for us.

That’s fine, nothing personal against him – I get it, Man Utd are a hot mess, not playing in the Champions League and Barcelona is a nicer place to live than Manchester. There is very little in the pros column for this move except arguably playing in the PL. That said, I don’t want De Jong. He doesn’t want to come to Man Utd, so I don’t want a player that is here for the money. We saw how badly that can turn out with Di Maria. It’s about time Man Utd move on and look for a player that does actually want to fight for the jersey week in week out.

And for that matter, maybe it’s also for the best if we can find a buyer for Ronaldo. I love him to bits and respect what he’s done in his career, but again, we can’t have someone who doesn’t want to be there phoning it in every week (at best) or stinking up the dressing room (at worst). Maybe that means letting Ronaldo buy out the rest of his contract or whatever, I don’t care. What I do know is that I want players who actually want to be there.
Daniel (maybe put in a cheeky bid for Ndidi) Cambridge


Ronaldo as an asset
In his piece about Manchester United, De Jong and Ronaldo, Ian states “ Ronaldo is an asset on a balance sheet, and the club’s owners are unlikely to simply write that down to zero just because he is desperate to play Champions League football.” But is he (an asset)? I get that he could be sold to another club for money, which would make him an asset, but if he isn’t sold, he’s a liability (in the financial sense) to the tune of £500,000 a week. His “assetness” (new word, heard it here first) is also depreciating, as he can leave for nothing at the end of the contract. Given his age, and the fact that he has 12 months left on his contract, (although as I understand, Man U could extend that another 12 months), unless he is sold for money this transfer window, I don’t see any feasible way United can recoup the cost of his wages. So surely it would be in the club’s financial interest to cancel his contract if he wants. Right? Or am I missing something?
Oli (AVFC)


Ronaldo and Barcelona are starting to engender some sympathy for Man Utd


Sympathy for the devils
Sympathy for Manchester United, you’re having a laugh! We’re a long way from them receiving most people’s sympathy due to the depressingly spectacular levels of success they achieved during Alex Ferguson’s reign. Like many others, I spent my childhood being constantly mocked by Man U fans as they won yet another premier league or cup and I grew up in London!!!

I then went to University in Manchester in 1997. Two years later in 1999 they won a blooming treble. I’m still getting over the hangover from that mad party.

I loved living in Manchester and have a lot of time for knowledgeable Man U fans but suffered bitterly as my red United friends had a field day taking the piss out of me and every City or Liverpool fan they could find telling them they would never win the league (gulp) let alone the champions league in (sigh).

They had it good for a very, very long time so they can have a little more pain before they deserve our sympathy. It’s only been 10 years since they last won the league and by my reckoning that’s more recently than 16 of the 20 teams in the league. Finally, let’s be honest Man U are so stinking rich that it’s only a matter of time before they start winning titles again. So F365, please let me enjoy a little smile at their misfortune guilt free for as long as it lasts.
Croydon Gooner (Suspect United will win a premier league before The Arsenal do, insert sad face)

Antonys and Karens
After chasing Rihanna all summer long, Man United have settled for Karen. Even though de Jong was Ten Hag’s primary target, I believe Milinkovic-Savic is an excellent alternative. We should also go ball out for Antony whatever money Ajax want to squeeze out of us, because we’ve spent millions on duds but this winger is the real deal. Imagine how jelly Ronaldo will be not to be the main attraction.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino
So long, Senor
Inevitably it seems Bobby will be on his way shortly. The writing’s been on the wall but that doesn’t lessen the sting of my favourite player of our modern era, leaving. So I’ll get in early and say thank you to our misnomered Brazilian Senor. For the goals. The no looks. The runs. The celebration impersonations. The grins. For defusing Mo and Sadio’s tiff with the cheekiest Jim Halpert glance at the camera.

You weren’t part of the system. You WERE the system.
Aussie Red


Ask and you shall receive
Big fan of F365. Watford fan here, normally love reading the predictions for the season. Can we get a championship one please before the season starts tomorrow?



Predicting the Championship 2022/23 places: this season’s least dignified scramble?


What am I?
I think we have come full circle folks. It’s time to turn off the internet for a few weeks and regroup. We have gone from articles questioning why the women’s team is all white, to lambasting the culture of men’s football when compared to women’s football, to the mailbox bagging out the men’s team just because the women’s team is performing well. Welcome to sensible journalism/discussion in 2022.

I’m confused. If I support the English women’s team , am I supporting an institutionally racist squad of privileged white people, or am I supporting a progressive, LGBTI+ inclusive, socially responsible squad of pioneers? I can’t keep up?!?!?

If I go to a women’s match and I’m surrounded by well-behaved families who don’t curse, am I a progressive, or am i just shielding myself from the real working-class people who tend to follow the men’s game. Am I a socialist or am I a classist? It’s all too confusing?!?!

If i support the men’s team (great diversity, great to see) and not the women’s… am I a sexist pig who needs to educate myself, or am I Martin Luther King? Do I simply not have enough spare time to follow both after a hard week’s work? Help me!!!!!!

The mental gymnastics required to form an opinion these days must be exhausting for some.

Here is my opinion, and I say this as a cisgender white man

The women’s football has been very entertaining. I’ve watched lots with my son who is loving it.
That back heel was top notch. A very intelligent technique with little time to think about it.
Its great to see the big crowds and excellent TV coverage.
Looking forward to the final.