Rome Was Not Built in a Day, But Rome Was Not Built by an Idiot

Why Manchester United’s FA Cup win hides Erik ten Hag’s failures.
André Zahn, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE , via Wikimedia Commons

On May 25, 2024, Manchester United faced rivals Manchester City in the FA Cup final at the historic Wembley Stadium. 

The highly anticipated match saw United clinch a 2-1 victory, with goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo.

 This recent FA Cup victory for the Red Devils marked the high point of Erik ten Hag’s tenure at the club, something much needed after what has been a very challenging season. 

While the FA Cup provides a glimmer of hope for the red side of Manchester, it may also distract fans from the reality that Erik ten Hag is not the man who will lead United to the next level.

Кирилл Венедиктов, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Since taking over in 2022, Erik ten Hag’s time at Manchester United has been marred by inconsistencies and disappointments. 

While it is true that Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s crucial to remember that it wasn’t built by incompetent leadership either, and Erik’s multiple issues and shortcomings are nothing short of incompetent. 

This season alone, Erik’s Manchester United have broken many club records, but not the ones you’d want to break. 

United experienced their worst start to a Premier League season, securing just nine points from their first seven games. 

The Red Devils also set a club record for most goals conceded across all competitions.

Beyond the many on-field problems, Erik’s time at Manchester United has also been filled with off-the-field drama, with many internal conflicts between players and fallouts with high-profile stars. 

Pidopram, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The most notable of these many locker room conflicts being with Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, both of which resulted in said player leaving the team to find great success elsewhere. Both of whom would undoubtedly be key players to Manchester United if Erik ten Hag hadn’t had conflicts with them.

Out of all the many shortcomings that Erik ten Hag has had at Manchester United, nothing comes close to his failure to perform on the European stage. 

This year’s Champions League exit also set a club record for the lowest-ever points in the group stage round. As a result of the poor performance in the Champions League, Manchester United finished last in a relatively manageable group.

All these things culminated in Erik ten Hag’s time at Manchester United coming to an end; until he won the FA Cup. 

Winning the FA Cup is always a cause for celebration, but it also saved Ten Hag’s job, which, in the long run, might not be super positive for Manchester United. 

This victory can be seen as a temporary relief that masks the underlying problem that is Erik ten Hag. As important as it may be, the win does not necessarily indicate long-term progress or that the issues that Ten Hag has caused have been addressed.

This FA Cup might give a false sense of progress, leading fans and pundits to overlook all the shortcomings Manchester United have had this season.  

Carlos yo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Sacking a coach is not always the solution, but, sometimes, trusting the process means taking the necessary steps to begin a new one. For Manchester United, it might be time to start afresh with a new coach.

 The FA Cup win is a significant achievement but does not erase Erik ten Hag’s numerous failures.

Rome wasn’t built by persistently trying, over and over, something that simply does not. To reach the next level, United should consider a new direction and leadership.

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Nathan Azevedo Espindula
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