PSV Eindhoven defeated Ajax 2-1 in the KNBV Cup final on Sunday, a setback that will undoubtedly upset Manchester United fans. Erik ten Hag, the club’s manager and soon-to-be manager of the Red Devils, made numerous significant modifications that violated Sir Alex Ferguson’s rule.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fired in November, United’s higher-ups decided to take a methodical approach to find a replacement. Ralf Rangnick was a temporary stand-in for a long-term successor.
With such a long wait, the club is depending on Ten Hag to bring success back to Old Trafford. However, in Ajax’s cup final, he broke Ferguson’s regulations by benching talents Sebastien Haller and Andre Onana.
Earlier this season, after Solskjaer benched Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferguson was overheard telling former UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov – who supports United – that “you should always start with your greatest players.” At Ajax, Onana and Haller are unquestionably in that category.
Haller has been in excellent form since joining the Eredivisie from West Ham, scoring 20 goals and assisting seven in 26 league matches. So Ten Hag’s choice to use loanee Brian Bobby – who has made six appearances this season – raised eyebrows, especially given that Haller was later called in in the 72nd minute to try to salvage the outcome.
Onana was dropped from the full team, with former Everton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg being picked. The 39-year-old has made three Eredivisie appearances this season but has rarely even made the club’s matchday squad when he hasn’t started, making his inclusion all the more remarkable.
Ten Hag did not comment on his choice to rest Onana and Haller for the vital encounter, but it will undoubtedly raise eyebrows at the Theatre of Dreams. The 52-year-old will take over a star-studded squad in the summer, but morale and tactics have let the club down as a whole.
With a dressing room full of big personalities – who apparently haven’t been hesitant to share their opinions in the past – managing those characters will be a tall order for Ten Hag. Taking the decision to eliminate some of United’s finest players, such as Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, and others will undoubtedly raise a stir.