Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (file pic). Alamy Stock Photo

What does Spurs' dramatic turnaround say about Man United?

Manager Erik ten Hag has found himself under pressure after a series of disappointing results.

THE FANS were furious.

Protesters made their voices heard.

Supporters had grown sick of successive managers failing.

The pragmatic, counter-attacking style of football was considered far too negative.

The widespread theory was that it was the ownership rather than the perpetually beleaguered managers who were to blame for this dire predicament.

Rumours of a potential takeover offered faint hope amid this bleak spectacle.

Too many players had been at the club too long, critics insisted, presiding over years of serial underachievement.

No one man could solve the problem. The culture at the club was the issue.

Consequently, most observers came to the same conclusion: Daniel Levy must go.

Towards the end of last season, following some embarrassing and lifeless performances — the 6-1 defeat to Newcastle springs to mind in particular — ‘Levy out’ signs were a common sight at Spurs.

In an infamous press conference just before his departure last March, outgoing manager Antonio Conte appeared to imply that the owner, rather than the many high-profile managers who had failed at the club, was to blame for their continual misfortune in recent years.

“Tottenham’s story is this,” the Italian said. “20 years there is the owner and they never won something but why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay here? I have seen the managers that Tottenham had on the bench. You risk to disrupt the figure of the manager and to protect the other situation in every moment.”

Yet six months on and the ‘Levy out’ signs and chants are far less commonplace at Spurs.

Tottenham previously tried to achieve success by hiring ‘proven winners’ like Conte and Jose Mourinho, but instead, a far less high-profile coach in ex-Celtic boss Ange Postecohglou has guided them to the top of the league at the time of writing.

It is all the more remarkable given that Spurs lost their best player in the summer, Harry Kane, with few consequently expecting them to even challenge for a top-four spot as a result.

So where did it all go right?

Postecoglou didn’t take long to get the fans back onside.

Crucially, he has the team playing in a progressive style that supporters favour, yet no manager has attempted since their last relatively successful manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

The Australian coach has come in with a clear vision and an uncompromising approach. Anyone who does not seem to fit with his style is ruthlessly cast aside.

Players such as Eric Dier, Hugo Lloris and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had been mainstays of the team under previous managers, yet are no longer first-team regulars and Højbjerg is the only one of that trio to receive any game time this season.

On Sky Sports last weekend, Gary Neville suggested Postecoglou came into “a stable environment,” when in reality, the opposite was the case.

In addition to the fan disillusionment with Levy and how the club was being run in general, their captain and all-time great player wanting to leave, their director of football had been forced to resign after being suspended from footballing activities.

Some critics were even suggesting that, without Kane, Spurs could essentially become the new Everton and potentially be set for a relegation dogfight.

Yet Postecoglou, through a mixture of intelligent tactics, astute decision-making and a strong personality that has earned the respect of the players, has steadied the ship considerably.

Neville’s ostensible attempts to downplay the scope of the Tottenham coach’s achievement suited the argument he was making at the time.

The former Red Devils player was seemingly suggesting that the identity of the Man United manager was irrelevant — the club were destined to repeat past failures so long as the Glazers remained at the club. It was therefore in his interest to play down Tottenham’s comparable struggles last season.

Pep Guardiola seems to be of a similar view to Neville judging by his comments in the aftermath of City’s convincing 3-0 win over United last weekend.

“We are in the same direction, me, the CEO, the sporting directors, the chairman. That is why I think the club is so stable,” he told reporters in what came across as a thinly veiled dig at the Old Trafford outfit. 

Yet Tottenham’s recent success suggests it is possible to thrive under an unpopular ownership and turn a turbulent situation around rapidly. 

Of course, the people behind the scenes need to have nous to appoint the right figurehead in the first place and United have consistently fallen short in this regard since Alex Ferguson’s retirement over 10 years ago.

You could argue the pressure is not as significant at Tottenham with fewer big-name players, more modest expectations and less corrosive egos, but Spurs are showing that dramatically reversing a club’s fortunes is not always as complicated as some people assume.

It is the principal reason why the club who finished five spots below Ten Hag’s men last season find themselves 11 points ahead of them going into this weekend’s set of fixtures.

Upcoming Premier League fixtures (3pm kick-off unless stated otherwise):


Fulham v Manchester United (12.30)
Brentford v West Ham
Burnley v Crystal Palace
Everton v Brighton
Man City v Bournemouth
Sheffield United v Wolves
Newcastle v Arsenal (17.30)


Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa (14.00)
Luton Town v Liverpool (16.30)


Tottenham v Chelsea (20.00)

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