Luckhurst: The cases for and against Manchester United keeping Erik ten Hag

Manchester United supporters were able to extract some schadenfreude from the draw with Liverpool five years on from their costly Old Trafford stalemate.

Jurgen Klopp cupped his ear as he exited to another rendition of “Jurgen’s cracking up” 15 years on from “Rafa’s cracking up”. The difference back then was United were Liverpool’s challengers for the title. Now they are barely worthy of the status of also-rans.

As resilient as United were to avoid defeat to Liverpool, the result ensured there will be no more questions about Champions League qualification at Erik ten Hag‘s press conferences. The question now is which Europa competition United will participate in next season. That is how far United have fallen.

Out of Europe entirely before Christmas, a League Cup defence that ended at the second hurdle with a 3-0 home defeat and destined to finish sixth at best in the league table, United’s season has been undeniably bad. The supporters sang about their upcoming FA Cup semi-final and that offers deliverance.

Winning that trophy would be a flattering end to an unflattering season but league form is the reliable barometer and United have a paltry win percentage of 48 in 2023-24. Ten Hag’s future hangs in the balance and the suggestion United could wait for football administrators to stop tending to their gardens to make a definitive decision on Ten Hag’s position is unrealistic. Here’s how the evidence stacks up.

Willy Kambwala was on the United bench for the first time against Liverpool at Anfield less than four months ago and on Sunday he started against them. It is to Kambwala’s immense credit he has gained such exposure when his first three years at United were effectively a write-off due to several significant injuries.

Ten Hag did not hesitate to start the 19-year-old away to West Ham two days before Christmas and that unwavering faith was apparent against Liverpool. After Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong at Ajax, Ten Hag has hot-housed teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, invaluable and untouchable United academy graduates.

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