FM Predicts: Erik ten Hag at Manchester United

by | May 5, 2022

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have come across the news that the Dutchman, Erik ten Hag will be the first team manager of Manchester United come the 2022/23 season. Ten Hag has signed a 3 year contract with United, with an option to extend another year. United fans seem to be chuffed about this appointment and so are we at The Devil’s DNA. 

Considering the fact that 30% of my adult life has gone into playing this game, and the editor feature available, I decided to put Erik ten Hag in charge of Manchester United from the 2022/23 season on the game and simulate a few seasons to get an idea of how he gets along in his new role (virtually). 

A few notes before we deep dive into the details of this simulation. I made ten Hag the manager at Manchester United starting from the 2022 season. I also cleared out Chris Armas, Mike Phelan, and a few other coaches. I was not able to find Mitchell van der Gaag in the game for some reason so he did not join ten Hag as an assistant manager at Manchester United. I also ran this sim a few times for testing purposes and noticed that Paul Pogba was signing a new contract in every one of them. So, I made a change using the editor so that Pogba doesn’t sign a new contract in order to make this a bit realistic. I also made sure that Lingard, Matic, and Mata leave the club in July of 2022 using the same feature. Finally, it has been widely reported that ten Hag will get a significant budget to rebuild the team at Old Trafford so I also gave him a budget of £200m. 

So, Erik ten Hag, the chosen one, the tactical one, the sensible one (?). The one who has been given the task to rebuild the commercial entity otherwise known as Manchester United Football Club. Let’s now take a look at how the virtual Erik ten Hag got on at Old Trafford. 

First things first, FM22 obviously starts with the 2021/22 season so the first season was simulated on this save with Rangnick as the manager. I also made sure using the editor that United doesn’t sign anyone new or sell anyone and the rebuilding is totally left up to the Dutchman. In the first season, Manchester United finished 4th with Champions League football going into ETH’s first season. Pretty unrealistic if you ask me. 

Anyway, Its just a game. Ten Hag now has the world at his feet, he has everything he could’ve wished for. A 200m budget, De Gea with a contract extension, one of the best players in the world and since this is a game, he doesn’t have the Glazers holding him back. It should be easy to rebuild from here, right?

…….. Uh, maybe not. 

I am sorry, but WHAT? What is that window? Ralf Rangnick didn’t spend countless press conferences saying that we need 500 new players for this. Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t bring Cristiano Ronaldo back for this. Roy Keane and Paul Scholes didn’t almost break down on National TV for this.

Don’t get me wrong, Christian Eriksen is a solid, solid player and Luka Jovic also makes a good backup option but if this happened in real life, I am sure 99% of our fanbase would be disappointed. Especially considering the fact that Manchester City are signing…. KYLIAN MBAPPE on a free transfer. Liverpool made moves to add Franck Kessie to an already world class team. And the best we could do was Christian Eriksen on a free transfer? 

Anyway, just like a 16 year old after his first heartbreak in high school, we have to move on. ETH’s first game in charge is against Leeds United. Raphinha and Rodrigo score in the first 14 mins and United are losing 2-0. A warm Premier League welcome for the Dutchman. But this is a new era, a new Manchester United, a new messiah, and Erik ten Hag proves he is worthy of spearheading this new era after an inspired comeback which sees his Manchester United team score 3 goals and win the game 3-2. The next game against Chelsea is also a high-scoring one, a 4-3 win. Jorginho gets sent off for the visitors, Eriksen gets injured in the second minute, Maguire gets sent off for the home side and McTominay picks up a red in the 90th minute. United end the match with 9 men but still manage to win the match 4-3. 

I simulated this save till December and Ten Hag’s Manchester United were 4th in the table with only 3 losses and wins against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Ten Hag also managed to come second in the Champions League group but a showdown clash against AC Milan to decide the 2nd qualifying team awaited. Which United won 3-1 and successfully qualified for the RO16 of the Champions League. 

Now, hand to your heart, most Manchester United fans would take this after 15 games. A boxing day clash against Liverpool at Old Trafford awaits us. But, that game ended up in heartbreak for Manchester United. Fabinho opened the scoring for the visitors early in first half while Roberto Firmino doubled the lead after a rabona assist from Mo Salah down the right wing. 2-0 at HT. United did manage to pull one back early in the second half through Marcus Rashford and threatened the Liverpool goal more often than not but it wasn’t enough. At least the performance was good. Encouraging signs. 

January was a good month for Erik ten Hag. He somehow managed to convince Erling Haaland that he, indeed, is going to bring the glory days back at the red side of Manchester. Dortmund weren’t that friendly though, and they got a hefty sum from Manchester United – 130m Great British Pounds. Nikola Milenkovic was added for extra security in the defence considering the fact that Harry Maguire once picked up a red card, served his suspension and again picked up a red card in the first game after his suspension was lifted. Sebastian Bornauw also came in from Wolfsburg to shore up the defence considering Victor Lindelof’s exit to Atletico Madrid. Bornauw was part of a player exchange deal with Donny van de Beek going the other way. Somewhere in UK, Mark Goldbridge is bawling his eyes out as we speak. ETH also managed to sell Alex Telles (god bless us) to Fiorentina. 

United aren’t doing too badly either. Maintaining a consistent form and solidifying their place in top 4. Liverpool and City are well away in the distance but promising signs so far. The Dutchman might be onto something. 

Although, Erik ten Hag now faces the biggest test of his tenure so far. A RO16 CL clash against the defending champions Bayern Munich. 

After a 1-0 loss at Old Trafford it all comes down to the clash at the Allianz Arena in the reverse leg. Jadon Sancho scores early in the second half but Bayern Munich recover through Robert Lewandowski. Manchester United bow out of the Champions League in the first knockout stage. At least this time United fans were happier for more than 22 seconds. 

Just like Newton’s cradle, United’s form swings back and fourth after the CL exit against Bayern Munich to the end of the season. Unsurprisingly, United drop down to 5th in the table and it all comes down to the final day of the season. The Red devils are level on points with Chelsea but have a poorer goal difference. United need to better Chelsea’s result against Leeds United while they face Newcastle United away from home. 

Unfortunately, Manchester United fall short on the final day of the season. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City juggernaut continues to roll as they win yet another Premier League. 

But hey, it’s alright. We all knew it was going to get bad before it gets good. Why do we fall down, Bruce? So we can get back up again. You only know the importance of light when you have lived in the dark. You only miss the sun when it starts… okay that’s excessive and I apologize. 

Anyway, we keep the 16-year-old high schooler in our minds and we move on. 

I am going to speed this up a bit now. We simulated till the 1st of September to see how the summer transfer window unfolded and my oh my, what am I seeing here? Is this real? Well, it is not actually, it is a virtual simulation but I cannot believe my eyes. 

Manchester United have signed not 1 but 2, TWO Defensive midfielders. Leandro Paredes joins in from PSG and AURELIEN TCHOUAMENI joins in from Monaco. The countless hours spent on getting the event data, the countless days spent on drawing up the midfield shortlist, the countless weeks spent on writing about Tchouameni are all now worth it. We used to pray for times like these. Albeit the times are through a video game. 

Ten Hag is absolutely flying as well. A 4-0 win against Burnley and a 2-0 win against Southampton in his first two games. 

19 games in and the previous statement can still be considered true. Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United are 2nd in the table. 7 points behind Manchester City currently spearheaded by Kylian Mbappe. United also absolutely dominated their Europa League group and are also in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup. Whisper it quietly, but has it actually gone good after it went bad? Have we actually found the messiah? Are Manchester United…. Back?

United didn’t make that many moves in the Jan transfer window but there were some outgoings. Scott McTominay went to Juventus and Brandon Williams went to Arsenal. 

This is the revamped Manchester United squad by Erik ten Hag. Some questionable transfers but not a bad rebuild if I am being honest. 

Annnndddd, we are back to normal. Manchester United absolutely bottle their strong run of form in the second half of the season and end up finishing 5th in the Premier League. United also lost the EFL Cup semi-final to Liverpool, lost in the FA Cup third round vs Liverpool, and also lost the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. Looks like 5th is the level/threshold for Erik ten Hag

Aston Villa, led by Brendan Rodgers, finish 4th. Burnley finish 7th with Wout Weghorst winning the Premier League golden boot with 25 goals. Manchester City, led by Jurgen Klopp now (yes, you read that right), again win the Premier League. 

Maybe now it actually gets good after it has already gone bad. It is the hope that kills you, honestly. 

We go into the third season with new, refined hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe Erik ten Hag has now turned this around. I simulated till the 1st of September 2024 and here are the results of the transfer window.

The big one obviously is Raphael Varane’s departure to Chelsea. Andre Onana, by the looks of it, is now the first choice keeper. McNeil and Calvert-Lewin are also in as backups. This season, ten Hag has again started well. 3 wins out of 3, 8 goals scored, 0 conceded, and 1st in the table. Is this our year?

Okay, I am getting Deja vu now. The red devils are again 3rd by the halfway stage of the season. 7 points behind Manchester City in first and they have once again completely dominated their Europa League group with 6 wins in 6. United lost the quarter-finals of the EFL cup to Aston Villa. Aston Villa are also 2nd in the Premier League table. Brendan Rodgers doing a great job over there. United were linked with him before they hired ten Hag. I will leave it up to you to draw conclusions. 

Not much to report from the Jan window. United signed Frederik Bjorkan from Rennes as a LB backup while Alex Sandro, Harry Maguire, Ethan Laird, Kobbie Mainoo, and Hannibal all departed the club on a permanent basis. 

IT HAS HAPPENED. IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED. Erik ten Hag qualifies for the Champions League by coming 4th in the Premier League. He also ends Manchester United’s 7 year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup after a 2-1 win over Sergio Conceicao’s Chelsea. Unfortunately, United lost to eventual winners Arsenal in the Europa League semi final. Arsenal’s first European trophy was won under the leadership of Diego Simeone. The Manchester City juggernaut continues as Jurgen Klopp’s team makes it a 5th title in a row. Will they ever be stopped? Oh, and Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich won their 3rd Champions League trophy in 4 years in 2025. 

I was initially going to simulate only 3 seasons but since ten Hag has finally managed to get CL football, we will simulate one more season and see what happens. 

Manchester United signed Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus for a whopping 110m pounds. No other significant ins or outs in the 4th season. United manage to climb up to 3rd in the Premier League by the end of January and win their Champions League group. Not a bad season so far. 

Here is a quick little squad update:

I feel like the same type of seasons are repeating now. Manchester United finish 4th in the Premier League and lose out in the quarter finals of the Champions League to PSG. Manchester City make it 6 in a row. Fiorentina win the Europa League while PSG win the Champions League. That is 3 seasons in a row where Manchester United have gone out of European competitions to the eventual winner. 

In domestic cups, Manchester United lost 3-1 to their neighbours, Manchester City in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. However, Erik ten Hag managed to win the second domestic cup in 2 seasons for Manchester United after winning the EFL Cup, defeating Chelsea (again) in the finals. 

So there you have it. In 4 seasons, Erik ten Hag finished 5th, 5th, 4th and 4th. A CL RO16 appearance and a CL quarter final appearance. 2 Europa League semi-final appearances. 1 FA Cup, 1 EFL Cup in 4 seasons. Make of that what you will. I, for one, would be hoping that the real life ten Hag does better than the virtual one. 

PS: If you want this save file then do contact us on twitter and we will send it to you.