Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes has pinpointed Erik ten Hag’s response to the humiliating defeat at Brentford in August as a watershed moment for the new boss.
Having already been beaten by Brighton on the opening weekend of the season, Ten Hag became the first United manager in more than 100 years to lose both of his first two games in charge.
But rather than allow the 4-1 trouncing at Brentford to be a continuation of the rot that had set in under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, what Ten Hag did next won the respect of his players.
As reported at the time, the Dutchman cancelled a scheduled day off and ordered the squad to report for extra training. Their ‘punishment’ for the performance was a gruelling 13.8km run, the distance that Brentford, as a team, had outrun United in the game.
Yet the key to winning the respect of his players was not for Ten Hag simply to dish it out, but to also participate himself. That seemed to strike a chord with the players.
“Why do we have to do it like this?” Fernandes confessed to the Manchester Evening News was his initial reaction to being told to run.
On this edition of TPL, Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette discuss how to solve Man Utd’s issue at centre-forward & Ten Hag’s striker plans. The guys talk Wout Weghorst, the fact João Felix is no longer on the market, Victor Osimhen, Harry Kane, Benjamin Sesko & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
“[But] when a manager does the punishment – because that’s what you have to call it, it was a punishment – obviously it makes us feel he knows he was part of that bad result and he wants to make us understand we are together on this in a good way, in a bad way, in the good moments and in the bad moments. All of a sudden, you look backwards and you see your manager running with you. I don’t know exactly what the distance was but it was a big distance.”
It clearly struck a chord with the players because United’s performances and results in the months since have changed drastically for the better.
Straight after the Brentford game, United put down four consecutive wins – a run which included matches against Liverpool and Arsenal. There was a slight blip against Manchester City to come, but United have only lost once more since that derby in early October and are currently on a run of eight successive wins in all competitions.