Man United’s win vs. Newcastle a rare good day for Ten Hag

MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag enjoyed a rare good day as his side beat Newcastle United 3-2 at Old Trafford on Wednesday, and he can only hope for a couple more before this miserable season draws to a close.

As debate and speculation swirls around the Dutchman’s position as manager, Man United won a Premier League game for just the third time in nearly three months. It was achieved thanks to goals from three young players, Kobbie Mainoo, Amad Diallo and Rasmus Højlund, while Ten Hag was also able to welcome back Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and — crucially — Lisandro Martínez from injury.

With one game to go, victory keeps alive Man United’s hopes of finishing in the top seven and qualifying for European competition through their league position. It also raises a faint hope that, with an FA Cup final to come against Manchester City at the end of the month, a disastrous season may yet end on a positive note.

Whether or not any of it will be enough to keep Ten Hag in a job, only new club investors Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS know.

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“It is a victory and I was pleased with the performance of the team,” said Ten Hag. “It’s always difficult to play against Newcastle, they are very physical, but also we played good football, scored good goals, especially the first. It was a nice team goal. We get some players back, we have now more players available and you have a bench.”

For once, his post-match news conference was largely positive.

Thanks to Chelsea‘s 2-1 win over Brighton on Wednesday, Man United can only realistically rise as high as seventh in the table, which would still represent their worst finish in the Premier League era.

They did, though, avoid a record 10th competitive home defeat on their last Old Trafford outing of the season and after a campaign, which has left Ten Hag battered and bruised, he will take the small wins wherever he can.

As welcome as the result against Newcastle was, there were still parts of the performance that raised more questions than answers.

One such: why has it taken so long to give Amad Diallo a chance? The 21-year-old Ivorian delivered Man United’s moment of the season with an extra time FA Cup winner against Liverpool in March, but he’s had to wait another two months for a Premier League start.

Finally picked against Arsenal on Sunday, Diallo kept his place against Newcastle and delivered an assist for Mainoo and then a ferocious strike to score himself.

Amad has had a difficult season because of a bad injury,” said Ten Hag. “He fought back and his performances in training and progress has been very good. Now he got his chance and has taken his opportunity. That’s how it should work. There is always internal competition and I am very pleased with his level.”

One of the criticisms of Ten Hag has been his loyalty to underperforming £85 million signing Antony. But with the Brazilian left on the bench, Amad seized his opportunity and there’s every chance he’s already done enough to start at Wembley against Manchester City in the FA Cup final on May 25 (stream live ESPN+, U.S. only).

As if to emphasise the point, the stadium began singing “Amad Diallo” midway through the second half. It was followed with support for the manager and chants of “we’re on the march with Ten Hag’s army.”

The majority of fans are undecided about whether he should be allowed to carry on next season and, for now, so are the club. Beating Newcastle has bought him some breathing space after an awful run of form since the end of February. A decision on his future is set to be delayed until after the trip to Wembley.

After the final whistle against Newcastle, Ten Hag delivered a speech to the fans from the centre of the pitch, promising that “these players will do everything to win the cup.” It was well received and after a lap around the stadium, Ten Hag walked down the tunnel to applause from the supporters who had stayed behind.

“The whole season, for the fans, it is a very difficult season,” admitted Ten Hag afterwards. “We are very pleased with the attitude of the fans.”

He will be, too. Whether or not it makes a difference to Ratcliffe remains to be seen.

After so many low points, there’s a strong argument to sack Ten Hag. But while there are still games left — particularly the cup final against Man City — there remain opportunities for Ten Hag to sway the debate in his favour.

It will take more than a narrow win over Newcastle to convince everyone, but there is, at least, a glimmer of hope that maybe an otherwise forgettable campaign can have a positive end.

“After the season we have had so far, I don’t talk about proud,” said Ten Hag. “We are all disappointed with the season, but still we can win something.”