Ten Hag ‘all wrong’ about Liverpool, and Kane would have Man United in the title race but maybe not

Editor F365
Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag thinks on the touchline

The Echo try to crowbar Liverpool into a week when Manchester United are the only story in town, with limited success, while according to Ollie Holt, Harry Kane is both the man who would have propelled Manchester United into a title race and the man who dodged a bullet because United are doomed either way.


Pool party
Mediawatch is a big fan of the newly minted job title of ‘Trends Writer’ for the poor content-farm bastards charged with scouring the ‘trending’ column on Twitter (or, as all media are now maddeningly required to call it because of a gobshite sociopath with a 14-year-old’s obsession with the letter X, ‘X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter’) and then generate 450 words of any old shite from whatever is there.

There’s just enough quiet-part-loud about ‘Trends Writer’ to tip you off to the motive behind it all, yet it remains euphemistic enough to lack the honesty of calling the job what it really is: Clickbait Correspondent.

Still, what to do when you’re a Football Trends Writer for the Liverpool Echo and all you can see trending is Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag? Nightmare.

Well, Football Trends Writers are nothing if not industrious, ingenious creatures, and Tom Cavilla has dug up some very old quotes from Erik Ten Hag where he talks about Liverpool a bit.

Erik ten Hag didn’t take long to endear himself to the Manchester United fans after conducting his first press conference at the end of last season

That’s the intro which, to its credit, doesn’t jump straight in to the Liverpool stuff but does play slightly fast and loose with the timeline with that ‘end of last season’ bit. We’re actually going back 18 months here, to Ten Hag’s unveiling as United boss.

But where do Liverpool come into all this?

Aiming to stamp his authority immediately, the 53-year-old boldly claimed he could be the manager to put an end to the recent success of bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.

Well, okay. He was, inevitably, asked about the success of Liverpool and City and whether he felt he was the man who could get Manchester United back into that table-topping conversation, which is dusted off now he’s trending 18 months later and plonked under this headline.

Erik ten Hag got it all wrong about Liverpool and Manchester United prediction is looking worse by the week

Here’s what Ten Hag said – and remember, this is before last season not this one.

“I admire them both, Manchester City and Liverpool, they play really fantastic football. But you will always see that an era can come to an end and I am looking forward to battle with them. I’m sure all the other clubs will want to do that.”

When ‘pressed further’ on whether he meant that could happen while Guardiola and Klopp remained in situ, Ten Hag said: “I think, yes.”

Worth noting here that this is the single most uncontroversial and safe answer he could possibly give to such questioning. To the point where it is literally the only viable answer if you think about it for more than a single second. If his response, before he’s taken charge of a single United game, to the question ‘Can you catch Guardiola’s City and Klopp’s Liverpool?’ is ‘No’ then imagine the response. He’s thrown in the towel before a ball has been kicked! He’s got a loser’s mentality! This is Manchester United Football Club we’re talking about!

Then note what he actually said about Liverpool and City. “I admire them both…” and “they play really fantastic football”. He has not said “Klopp is a toothy fraud, Mo Salah is shit and the Kop is a myth. We’ll shit ’em.”

But apparently now…

Almost 18 months on from these comments, it is safe to say Ten Hag’s vision has fallen flat. If watching City claim a third successive Premier League crown was not bad enough, their misery was compounded by losing to the Sky Blues in the FA Cup final and and (sic) being beaten 7-0 at Anfield by Liverpool.

Was there anything else that happened last season, though? Anything else that might be worth mentioning in a piece about how Ten Hag was ‘so wrong’ about United’s ability to compete with Liverpool?

There’s a grudging clue in the next para.

Guiding the Red Devils to a third-placed finish during his debut campaign helped paper over such cracks, though the signs were there to suggest United’s league finish was less impressive than it first appeared.

It’s fair to say United weren’t always great last season, but they did finish third and if that was a ‘less impressive than it first appeared’ exercise in papering over cracks – which isn’t entirely unfair – then what does that say about the team that trailed in eight points behind them in fifth?

Feels almost like Ten Hag’s United actually were capable of taking on the might of Klopp’s Liverpool after all.

This season has so far been a different story, for sure.

Five games into the 2023/24 campaign and United are once again playing catch-up to the two teams Ten Hag had hopes of toppling.

Once again? He finished eight points ahead of Liverpool last season.

Then there’s this marvellous sentence.

All eras may come to an end, but Liverpool are portraying at present they are not ready for the success experienced during Klopp’s cycle to be over just yet.

And Manchester United still finished eight points ahead of them last season, fella. Definitely feels like that needs mentioning. Even when you add in this season’s nightmare start for the Red Devils, Ten Hag’s side are still portraying at present they have secured one more Premier League point than Liverpool since the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford.


Shoulder charge
Meanwhile, there’s an absolute gift from the fixture gods for those who only want to write about Manchester United this week as Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich host a Manchester United team who he would probably quite like to have joined in the summer but perhaps isn’t so sure about now.

Sure enough, Kane was asked about it and gave some standard non-committal answers in which United were praised as a great club but he was happy with his choice to join Bayern Munich. Also worth mentioning here that as Spurs never accepted – or ever gave any hint they would accept – any offer from United, it’s all actually rather moot anyway. Kane never had a choice to make between United and Bayern Munich; his choice was between Bayern or staying at Spurs.

But MyBettingSites – not a place we usually expect to find breaking football news, with all due respect – have got a great scoop. Kane is unhappy at Bayern, and would rather have joined United!

Don’t take our word for it, and definitely don’t take Kane’s. No, the man to heed here is self-styled ‘Human lie detector’ – perhaps the only job title on earth more degrading than Trends Writer –  Darren Stanton is on hand to tell us more.

‘His body language tells me that he did want to go to Manchester United. His left shoulder moves up and down when he talks about the other clubs that were in talks to sign him, this shrug is something we do when we want to give off the impression that we’re not bothered.

‘But that would be the case if both shoulders moved and in this instance, just one of Kane’s shoulders shrug, which means it’s a half-hearted attempt at appearing bothered. To me that’s a red flag about his honesty about being happy and he’s bothered by not being able to go elsewhere.

‘When most people start a sentence with ‘to be honest with you’, the chances are that they’re about to lie to you, and this is one of the first things that Harry Kane says before talking about his options in the summer, which is a huge red flag and it tells me that everything he said next was not truthful.’

To be honest with you, Mediawatch thinks Stanton is a genuine authority and in no way a chancer trying to insert himself into a big story, so we should all respect his craft.

After all, this is a man who, according to the Daily Star, ‘has provided psychological and physical analysis on everyone from King Charles to Donald Trump’.

Talk about the breadth of humanity! And now it’s from King Charles to Donald Trump and Harry Kane.


United punt
A more predictable source of Kane-Bayern-United content is the Mail’s Oliver Holt, who busily pretends that United could have signed Kane as easily as Bayern did and then spends a whole column kicking the absolute shit out of this straw man.

Kane was for sale in the summer and it is thought he was open to a move to United. One of the best strikers in the Premier League, England’s greatest goalscorer, a leader, a consummate professional, was available and United did not even try to sign him. Bayern paid £100million to make him their new figurehead, the new face of a great club.

First of all, Bayern didn’t pay £100million for him, even with all the add-ons that may eventually go Tottenham’s way. But the most important point here is not what Bayern paid; it’s that even if United had matched (or even bettered) it then it would still have made no difference because Daniel Levy wasn’t going to sell him to a Premier League club.

United ‘did not even try to sign him’ because they knew it would be wasted energy that could be more usefully deployed pursuing achievable targets. Whether they made the best go of that or not is another matter, but their error was not in failing to sign a player they had no chance of signing. At best, United could have tried to convince Kane to see out the final year of his Spurs contract and join them on a free when Levy could do nothing about it. But – as we’ve already seen – United’s need for a striker was more urgent and immediate than that.

United spent £72m on Rasmus Hojlund, who may go on to be a great success but is a relatively untried centre forward. It is easy to say now, but if United had bought Kane they would not be sitting 13th in the league. If they had bought Kane, they would be thinking about challenging for the title.

Maybe, but so what? They didn’t buy Kane because they couldn’t buy Kane. You might as well say they should have bought Declan Rice, Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham. Oh wait, no, that was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s thwarted masterplan. Marvellous.

Holt isn’t done, though.

United’s loss is Bayern’s gain.

He was never United’s to lose.

It may well be Kane’s gain, too. He would have made United better but then again, it already feels as if he dodged a bullet when United did not attempt to persuade him to move to Old Trafford. Under the dead hand of the Glazers, United are no longer a club where players go to realise their ambitions.

For fu… So did they  miss out on a player who’d have them ‘challenging for the title’ or not, Ollie?


Car trouble
We’re not going deep on a Sun puff piece about Cristiano Ronaldo’s enormous collection of enormously expensive cars. We’re sure they’re all lovely and brilliant vehicles but we don’t care about cars and are inherently suspicious of those who do. But it’s fine, honestly. Genuinely, you go ahead and enjoy your brum-brums. We won’t judge. Much. There’s worse content out there.

What we will not tolerate, however, is a shit headline. And ‘CRISTIANO RENAULT-O’ is a really, really, really shit headline that doesn’t work either spoken aloud or on the page.

Especially as – and even we know just enough about cars not to be surprised by this – not one bastard Renault is even mentioned in the rundown of his ‘amazing car collection’.