Their top-four hopes are all but over, but the visitors created enough to give incoming manager Erik ten Hag encouragement

In the days since Erik ten Hag’s unveiling as Manchester United’s next manager the talk has turned, hungrily, to the scale of the task. There is a kind of relish in this. How many years are we talking now? What’s the current bid? I hear five. I hear six. How about ten years. How about a hundred years. How about infinite years.

It is of course a pointless discussion. Partly because it has no content, nothing but numbers plucked out of the air. Let’s face it, if you’re walking in the wrong direction you’re not going to get there at all. But there is also something deeply facile about hiring a first-team manager as a kind of balm. Fix us. Give us “a culture”. Make us like Ajax, while having none of the structures that make Ajax into Ajax. In many ways bolting Ten Hag on to this ailing machine is up there with buying a replica shirt in the hope it might turn you into Johan Cruyff.

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