Sport

Despite the cynics, Man United mop up Premier League’s manager and player of the month awards for September

Is the ten Hag project genuinely starting to take shape?

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 30th September 2022

As many disillusioned fans were expecting, Manchester United made a shaky start to the Premier League season. However, they look to have gathered some form and momentum over recent weeks.

So much so, in fact, that after having strung together four wins on the bounce – two coming in big games against long-standing rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, no less – they have won both September’s manager and player of the month awards.

The first to be awarded was Marcus Rashford, who despite missing out on Gareth Southgate’s most recent England squad through injury, has had a much improved last month or so.

Netting two goals and a pair of important assists to go with them, the 24-year-old looks to finally be breaking his duck and underlying confidence issues.

A big goal in the derby against Liverpool and in the 3-1 victory over high-flying Arsenal has no doubt helped lift his spirits.

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Man United fans will be hoping this is just the start of a Rashford renaissance.

Moreover, even beyond his direct goal contributions, Rashford’s all-around play looks to be returning to pre-slump levels, playing a key role in the transition and a more fluid forward line.

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It seems like the United no. 10 is benefitting from a new way of playing or, perhaps more accurately, a new manager who clearly sees him as a key player in his system.

It’s clear that Erik ten Hag‘s approach hasn’t just benefitted the likes of Rashford and, say, Sancho but the team looks more well-organised as a whole. Earlier this month, Bruno Fernandes gave fans a bit more of an insight into the Dutch coaches ‘strict rules’ and discipline.

Not only have they kept clean sheets in three out of the last six games across all competitions but there has been a noticeable improvement in both passing and possession stats since he arrived, whilst still being able to sacrifice some of the ball for a more counter-attacking set-up went the game calls for it.

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That being said, it is a long old season and many fans will still need some convincing that the squad is good enough to take them back to a competitive level.

Even the man himself isn’t getting too carried away just yet.

Nevertheless, both the panel of experts and those deciding via public vote seem to think his efforts over the last month are worthy of recognition, earning manager of the month alongside his once again firing forward.

This is the first time a United player and manager have scooped the monthly double since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s award in February 2019, who also won it alongside Rashford.

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Accolades aside, ten Hag’s patience and pragmatism should serve the team well over the next few weeks, as United still have a challenging run-in.

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As well as the Manchester derby on Sunday, their next four games include a home fixture against a growing Newcastle side, Conte’s high-flying Spurs and a Chelsea squad with more than enough quality to end their bad run of results.

Manager and player of the month aside, it’s about getting points on the board and his weekend is massive for Man United’s 22/23 campaign.

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