Manchester United qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2023-24 after beating Chelsea 4-1 on Thursday night, ending Liverpool’s hopes that with a strong run-in they could sneak in into the top four and salvage their campaign. Erik Ten Hag has managed to get the Red Devils back to where they belong, at least in terms of European competitions they will be competing in, and we can safely say at this point that his first season in England has been a success. Sure, there is still the FA Cup final against Manchester City on 3 June to be played and things could change even more for the better for the Devils, but even at this point, we cannot be mistaken for saying the Dutch has made a great, positive impact in his first 12 months at the club.
But while on social media we can hear many things about Man United being praised to much for their campaign and that they are not as good as many point out they are, a little comparison can end those discussions for good. So, let’s have a look at some of the other Premier League managers and their first seasons at their clubs and how they compare to Ten Hag’s.
Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool back in 2015, but his first full season at Anfield was in 2016-17. In that season, Liverpool managed to return to Champions League football after missing out in the previous season and Klopp led them to fourth place in doing so. In the FA Cup, they lost in the fourth round and in the League Cup, they finished their campaign in the semis. Liverpool just about snuck into the top four with a point more than Arsenal, as the Gunners finished in fifth. That was a good campaign for the German and Liverpool, but he did not win any trophies that year.
It was the same story with Pep Guardiola the same season. It was in summer of 2016 when Guardiola took over. City finished in third, just two points above Liverpool and three above the fifth-placed Arsenal. They lost in the semis of the FA Cup, fourth round of the League Cup and in the Champions League, not many expected them to crash out in the round of 16 against Monaco, especially after beating them 5-3 in Manchester in the first leg.
And then we have Mikel Arteta at Arsenal. He maybe even took over the most struggling of the teams and while he did a great job this season to push Man City in a title race before collapsing late on, the Gunners did not achieve a top four finish in his first full season at the club, nor they won any trophies. Arsenal finished eighth in the Premier League with mere 61 points, behind the likes of West Ham and Tottenham who were just above them. Also, they crashed out of the FA Cup in the fourth round and in the League Cup, Man City easily defeated them in the quarter-finals. In the Europa League they ended their campaign in the semis at the hands of Villarreal, the eventual winners. Technically, Arsenal did win a trophy, but it was a Community Shield victory on penalties, and that is definitely not something that counts as a trophy in a proper competition.
So looking at all of these facts, it is clear to see just how successful the first season has been for Erik Ten Hag at Manchester United. It remains to be seen whether United will improve it with another trophy, but the strong foundations have already been set to keep growing next season.