Ten Hag is to Man Utd what Southgate was to England – a seemingly overwhelming boss sweeping away comedic chaos

THE circus Cristiano Ronaldo has left town, the bitter civil war with the Glazers is ending and Erik ten Hag is gaining authority by the day.

The Premier League – remember it? – is back in ten days and his most famous club, Manchester United, threatens to sweep away a decade of confusion and despair.

Erik ten Hag is trying to lead Man United out of the doldrums

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Erik ten Hag is trying to lead Man United out of the doldrumsPhoto credit: Reuters

Pep Guardiola, so often ahead of his time, blurted out just before the World Cup break.

“I have a feeling United are coming back,” said Manchester City’s great sage. “United are finally coming back. I like what I’m seeing from United right now.”

Guardiola actually sounded happy about it. He joined the Etihad in 2016 just as Jose Mourinho rolled in at Old Trafford.

It was supposed to be the renewal of a great managerial rivalry, an epic break in style forged in the crucible of Spain’s Clasicos – but it turned out to be a mismatch.

City was built to succeed, United to fail.

Six and a half years later, long since Mourinho has been gone, Guardiola has finally spotted a worthy challenge emerging from across Manchester.

And the City boss was speaking ahead of the end of the poisonous soap opera that marked Ronaldo’s second coming, as well as news that the Glazers, those absentee slum landlords who have presided over a decade of mismanagement since Alex Ferguson’s retirement, are selling.

Ten Hag, an intelligent man with a calm determination and a welcome dislike of bulls**t, gets what he wants.

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The Dutchman is to United what Gareth Southgate was to England, a seemingly unconvincing appointment sweeping away a culture of comedic chaos.

And since the Premier League parted ways for their six-week holiday, spirits have improved at no club like United.

Ronaldo was dealt with swiftly and decisively just as the Glazers finally bowed to the green-and-gold pressure and announced their intention to leave.

Ten Hag has been blessed with a second ‘pre-season’, particularly useful for a new manager, and this week in Spain he has spoken honestly and with a welcome lack of frosting about Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire and the prospect of new ownership.

That’s not to say United can win the title this season. They suffered a dismal 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa just two games ago and are 11 points behind leaders Arsenal.

But a return to Champions League football – which seemed impossible at the start of the Ten Hag era with a home loss to Brighton and a thorough smash against Brentford – is looking very good.

After a decade of United spending money on high-profile flops, there have been promising signs from Ten Hag’s new recruits.

Casemiro is the world-class midfielder United have been craving for years.

Gareth Southgate has ushered England into a new era of optimism

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Gareth Southgate has ushered England into a new era of optimismPhoto credit: Getty
Man Utd went into the World Cup break with optimism

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Man Utd went into the World Cup break with optimismPhoto credit: AFP

Giggles over the physical stature of Red Dwarf centre-back Lisandro Martinez were silenced as it emerged that Ten Hag, who had coached the Argentine at Ajax, realized size isn’t everything.

Another Ajax signing, Antony appears poised to become an A-list showman for the Theater of Dreams.

And Christian Eriksen is a master strike on a free transfer who could have a similar impact to Teddy Sheringham, another outstanding craftsman who joined United when he was on the wrong side of 30.

Marcus Rashford has been revived, 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho is an exciting prospect and a January move for Dutch striker Cody Gakpo is a tempting possibility as United may just be a centre-forward who won’t become an elite team again.

United have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham and drawn at Chelsea under Ten Hag.

Their next three league opponents – Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth – may have been hand-picked as stepping stones into the second half of the campaign.

Nothing is certain as Guardiola has extended his City contract, Newcastle is a serious offer after a mere shower of Saudi oil money, Arsenal are reborn under Mikel Arteta, Liverpool are still going strong and Chelsea are still filthy rich.

But there are signs that United – “finally,” as Guardiola pointed out – are on the way back to sanity, maybe even greatness.

City beat United 6-3 in early October but when the next Manchester derby takes place on January 14 there could be a real sense of revival and hope at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag does not possess the ego or CV of Mourinho or Louis van Gaal, nor the emotional attachment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

His appointment was a shot in the dark but suddenly United see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stop starting late in England

A widely overlooked aspect of England’s performances in Qatar was the fact that they started poorly in four out of five games.

After a superb opening against Iran, England never got going against the United States, they didn’t click until half-time against Wales or in the first half hour against Senegal, nor until France took a 17th-minute lead on Saturday night’s quarter-finals.

Whether Gareth Southgate stays or goes, England must be on time for work.

England have made a habit of starting slowly in Qatar

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England have made a habit of starting slowly in QatarPhoto credit: Getty

Griez is the word for France’s Cup

AFTER France’s semi-final win over Morocco, many headlines announced a ‘Messi-Mbappe dream final’.

And yet France’s Antoine Griezmann, not Kylian Mbappe or Lionel Messi, was the most influential player of this tournament.

It may be a dream for the Qataris to see their two prized possessions go head-to-head at Paris Saint-Germain.

But last time I checked, football was still a team game and France have a better team than Argentina.

France is about more than just Kylian Mbappe

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France is about more than just Kylian MbappeCredit: AP

Big Sam has magical Dutch

IT IS a shame that Holland had already lined up Ronald Koeman to replace Louis van Gaal as coach after the World Cup.

As we watched the national team that once gave us “total football” lump two great men together in their epic quarter-final loss to Argentina, it seemed to me that there was only one man worthy of it, Van to inherit Gaal’s team.

Sam Allardyce could finally have fulfilled his self-proclaimed destiny of winning a major international trophy.

The Dutch should call Big Sam

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The Dutch should call Big SamCredit: PA

Steve’s crowd favorite

STEVE WILSON, the BBC commentator who was supposed to be the heir to John Motson and Barry Davies but somehow never gets the credit he deserves, came up with the best line I’ve heard at the tournament during the France v Morocco semi-final.

With massive Moroccan support making an almighty noise, Wilson explained that unlike most matches at this World Cup, the game was played in front of “a crowd, not a crowd”.

Only a handful of nations – including Morocco and Argentina – have a large, authentic fan base in Qatar.

Most games were played to Mexican-waving neutral tourists and the atmosphere was odd.

And while we’re on the subject of TV commentary, one request please. . .

No matter what channel or competition it’s on, can some big game coverage please feature the awesome Ally McCoist in Co-Comms?

Ally McCoist's commentary is a treat once again

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Ally McCoist’s commentary is a treat once againPhoto credit: Getty

No mystery, it’s Jimmy

THE extraordinary and revolutionary positivity of the England Test team is rightly admired in the cricket world.

But although England reinvented the wheel under Ben Stokes and manager Brendon McCullum, they would not have won a series in Pakistan without Jimmy Anderson, who at the ripe old age of 40 is still doing what he has always done.

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James Anderson remains the most important man at the age of 40

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James Anderson remains the most important man at the age of 40Photo credit: Getty

L’Eq they talk

I ALWAYS love the outrage at the ‘infamous’ player ratings in French sports paper L’Equipe – Phil Foden got four out of ten and Jude Bellingham got five after England’s World Cup quarter-final loss to France.

But if you’ve ever met L’Equipe writers, you’ll understand that the whole thing is just a glorious, attention-grabbing ending.

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6927829/ten-hag-man-utd-southgate-england/ Ten Hag is to Man Utd what Southgate was to England – a seemingly overwhelming boss sweeping away comedic chaos

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