ERIK TEN HAG is preparing for another new experience as Manchester United boss – and it doesn’t get much harder than a trip to the Etihad.
After the lows of Brighton and Brentford then the highs of beating Liverpool and Arsenal, the Dutchman has already experienced the wide spectrum of emotion that comes with being Red Devils manager.
But now he has the unenviable task of taking his side to take on Pep Guardiola’s dominant City.
Ten Hag is trying to be the first United manager to win his first Manchester derby since Sir Alex Ferguson in 1987 after David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick all failed.
The noisy neighbours have been hitting all the right notes in the Premier League recently.
Four titles in the last five years, including the 100-point season, and now favourites to retain their crown once again this term with Tottenham the only other side unbeaten going into the international break.
And City’s home record is pretty darn ridiculous.
Guardiola has won 91 of his 117 Premier League matches at the Etihad since he arrived in 2016.
Against United, though, he has come unstuck a few times – with just two wins, a draw and THREE defeats.
A Paul Pogba-inspired 3-2 comeback win in 2018 put the title celebrations on hold and United also recorded league victories across town in December 2019 and March 2021 but City won 4-1 in March.
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However, these were all in the BH era – Before Haaland.
Because the bargain £51million giant from Norway via Salzburg and Dortmund is causing utter carnage since touching down on English soil with 14 goals in nine games for City.
And the 22-year-old is aiming to become the first player in Premier League history to smash hat-tricks in three consecutive home games.
So both United boss Ten Hag and his 5ft 9ins centre-back Lisandro Martinez – growing in stature since his shaky start – will no doubt be having sleepless nights this week working out how they are going to stop the unrelenting Haaland.
While City are expected to finish well clear of United come May, after all this is Ten Hag’s seventh league match in his first season in England, this could be a golden opportunity to land a statement win and the local bragging rights.
The Red Devils know three points at the Etihad would be a huge boost to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
United – who hope to welcome Marcus Rashford back from injury – head into the fixture on the back of four straight domestic wins before the Queen’s passing.
A fifth on Sunday would mean the away team winning for the 22nd time in a match between these two sides – extending the Premier League record this fixture already holds.
But more importantly, it would show Guardiola and the rest of the Premier League that Ten Hag is already getting to grips with his squad and this league, setting them up to be well in contention when the season stops for the World Cup.
Plus the chance to quash any rising optimism of an Invincibles season for City will go down well with fans at Old Trafford and the Emirates alike.
Source: The Sun
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