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The Fiver | Are Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United really in crisis? No, not yet

Are Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United really in crisis? No, not yet

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THEATRE OF SCREAMS

‘Twas the night before the 2022-23 Premier League, and Manchester United had already been plunged into a fresh crisis, according to reports. Cristiano Ronaldo and the new gaffer Erik ten Hag are said to be on collision course after the forward’s decision to nick off early from last Sunday’s friendly draw against Rayo Vallecano. As pre-season statements of intent go, this is apparently akin to the wantaway forward clearing his locker and booking a one-way flight to Spain (or Italy). The insatiable press pack are limbering up for the new top-flight season by frothing at this clash of the titans, and making whispered references to Ten Hag’s reign being in trouble.

At which point, a reminder: the Premier League campaign is scheduled to end on 28 May 2023. Can any of us seriously hope to stomach another 10 months of this nonsense? Hopefully not: Ronaldo simply needs to accept a £350,000-per-week wage reduction to sign for Nottingham Forest, which seems to be all the rage this summer. Anyway, is the bronzed Portuguese Adonis even Ten Hag’s biggest problem? The Fiver would say the continuing failure to successfully tempt Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong to Old Trafford is potentially more serious, evoking as it does memories of David Moyes’s fruitless quest to sign Cesc Fàbregas in 2013, early in his ill-fated reign.

Ah … 2012-13. That was the last year that mighty United won the Premier League, when Alex Ferguson brought the curtain down on his 26-year tenure with one last title. Since then Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Michael Carrick and Ralf Rangnick have all been at the wheel. It’s almost as if the United job has become a poisoned chalice. Along with Ronaldo-gate, Ten Hag’s in-tray includes trying to muster an acceptable performance level from Anthony Martial, the spectre of more anti-Glazer protests, and a surfeit of sub-standard centre-backs.

Not to mention that Brighton, who gave United an unforgettable 4-0 pummelling at the Amex in May, will come calling at Old Trafford on Sunday. Manchester United in crisis? Now that the Fiver thinks about it, maybe they are. Best of luck, Erik.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It’s a reality. Racism is there. There are people who are racist who still promote the idea that the fact that you have a different colour of skin makes you inferior … It’s hard for people who haven’t experienced racism to have empathy. So you explain, tell stories, things you have seen and heard, suffered.” Wolves winger Adama Traoré talks to Sid Lowe about his experience of racism and why taking the knee still matters.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

Bournemouth blazers, David Moyes’s new tattoos and all sorts going on at Everton. It’s David Squires’ team-by-team guide to the two-part Premier League season!

Excerpt from Squires cartoon

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

In part two of Football Weekly’s big Premier League preview, Wolves fans finally get their moment – after the podders preview another nine teams, naturally.

FIVER LETTERS

“Wednesday night saw the return of the Hundred to the cricket schedule. It got me wondering if there would ever be a football equivalent: a version of the sport changed enough to annoy the purists but not enough to attract new fans, a concentration of the best players on expensive contracts among a small number of elite clubs. Anyway, I see the Premier League is back tomorrow night” – Ed Taylor.

“I’d like to make Z Snook (yesterday’s letters) aware there are younger Fiver readers – I am one of them. But then again, I also enjoy old-fashioned terraces at non-league grounds, and a pint of stout before the match” – Ed Bazeley.

“Re: Ben Clay’s idea for a new Lionesses slogan – might I reference the first three words in USWNT player Sydney Leroux’s Twitter bio?” – Steve Mintz.

“Far be it for me to correct Noble Francis, but he is wrong to suggest “all right-minded people read Big Website”. It is in fact, all left-minded people” – Alan Webb.

“The new EPL season hasn’t even started yet and Noble Francis has already trousered a Prizeless letter o’ the day award. Perhaps the award should be renamed the Noble Piece Prize” – Alistair McGillivray.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Ed Taylor.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Before Crystal Palace kick off the new Premier League season on Friday night, Patrick Vieira has encouraged players to continue taking a stand against racism. “It’s good to keep taking the knee,” the manager said. “There is a statement to make and I believe it is important to keep making it.”

After losing at Brentford last season, will there be more opening-night woe in the capital for Arsenal? “It is different. Everything that happened before that game was pretty strange and unique,” insists Mikel Arteta. “We are really excited and will try to start in the best way.”

Mikel Arteta

Steve Cooper expects Nottingham Forest to keep on spending this month. “We want to enjoy it and be the best version of ourselves,” Cooper cheered, waving a wad of twenties at assembled hacks. “We want to act and behave like a Premier League club.”

The manager of Everton’s Frank Lampard is testing West Ham fans’ love for him by trying to relieve them of Amadou Onana (what’s his name?), with FLE matching West Ham’s accepted £33m offer and the player learning towards Goodison. Not such good news for FLE: Dominic Calvert-Lewin will miss the start of the season after picking up a “freak” knee injury in training.

Anthony Martial will miss Manchester United’s season-opener at the Amex after getting injured in training. Where on earth will Erik ten Hag find another workshy centre-forward at such short notice?

Transfers ahoy! Carney Chukwuemeka has wrapped up his £20m move from Aston Villa to Chelsea, while Manchester City midfielder James McAtee has joined Sheffield United on loan and Leeds’s Lewis Bate will spend the season at League One Oxford.

And David Seaman said the Lionesses’ Euros glory left him feline emotional. “It brought back great memories, when I watched the girls it was amazing,” Seaman chuckled at the National Cat Awards in London. Yes, you read that right.

David Seaman with his wife, Frankie, ready to judge some cats.

STILL WANT MORE?

Manchester United fans should expect evolution, not revolution in Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge, writes Karen Carney.

Cleo Skopeliti talks to coaches and parents about the problems facing girls’ grassroots football amid a surge in interest after England’s Euro 2022 success.

It’s the penultimate day of our Premier League previews – Southampton and Tottenham, the long wait is over.

Andy Brassell’s Bundesliga preview is in and – spoiler alert – Bayern Munich will probably win the title.

After years of relentless links with the English top flight, Kalidou Koulibaly has finally arrived at Chelsea. He gets his chat on with Ed Aarons here.

Could Erik ten Hag pluck Hakim Ziyech from the bargain bin while Chelsea are chucking Frenkie De Jong in their trolley? The Rumour Mill checks it out.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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