CHRIS WHEELER: Erik ten Hag has revived Manchester United in the space of just a few weeks with the Red Devils running and fighting harder than before, while Marcus Rashford looks to be back to his best under the Dutchman

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The mood at Manchester United has swung dramatically from one of despair after losing the opening two games to wild optimism following four wins in a row.

The last two matches at Old Trafford have brought rousing victories over Liverpool and league leaders Arsenal, hauling Erik ten Hag’s side away from the foot of the Premier League table and into fifth place.

Sportsmail looks at how the new United manager has staged a remarkable turnaround to get his team back on track.

Erik ten Hag's Manchester United now sit fifth in the Premier League after their woeful start

Erik ten Hag's Manchester United now sit fifth in the Premier League after their woeful start

Erik ten Hag's Manchester United now sit fifth in the Premier League after their woeful start

RUNNING MEN

The most damning aspect of United’s wretched start to the season was the fact Ten Hag’s side ran eight-and-a-half miles less than Brentford as they were humiliated 4-0. The Dutchman ordered his players into training the following day to run the extra mileage, and the message has clearly hit home because there has been significantly more effort since then.

Having managed a team total of just 59.4 miles against Brentford, United ran 70.7 miles against Liverpool and 64.6 miles in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Arsenal. 

Ten Hag told the players he wanted actions rather than words, and earned their respect by accepting his share of the blame for the Brentford defeat and completing the punishment run himself.

Lisandro Martinez has been excellent at centre back since United 's 4-0 to Brentford

Lisandro Martinez has been excellent at centre back since United 's 4-0 to Brentford

FIGHT CLUB

A lack of physicality and fight was one of the weaknesses highlighted by interim manager Ralf Rangnick last season, and it contributed to the defeats by Brighton and Brentford in Ten Hag’s first two games. But United have looked a more combative, cohesive unit since then. Players are fighting for each other and tackles are routinely followed by high-fives and chest bumps.

In Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia, Ten Hag has signed two fierce competitors he knows well from Holland and that is rubbing off on their new team-mates. Scott McTominay, in particular, played like a man possessed against Arsenal.

Defender Diogo Dalot said: ‘It comes from the messages the manager passes to us, but the main point has been from ourselves: to be at this club you have to fight for it. You have to fight for 90 minutes every game.’

It’s no surprise United lead the Premier League with 20 yellow cards after six games. At this rate, Ten Hag’s side could finish the season with the highest average in the competition’s history.

Tyrell Malacia has shown himself to be a fierce competitor and kept Luke Shaw out of the team

Tyrell Malacia has shown himself to be a fierce competitor and kept Luke Shaw out of the team

WISE BUYS

Despite signing Christian Eriksen, Martinez and Malacia, the transfer window was in danger of going flat for United due to their fruitless pursuit of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and attempts to bring in sub-standard targets such as Bologna’s Marko Arnautovic.

The decision to splash an additional £155 million on Brazil duo Antony and Casemiro has put a different spin on United’s summer spending, which soared to £229m last week, the club’s highest in a single window. Suddenly, this looks like a squad that can compete with their rivals.

It has proved to be money well spent. Eriksen and Martinez have been two of United’s best performers and Malacia is keeping Luke Shaw out of the team.

Antony scored on his debut against Arsenal and United have every reason to hope Casemiro will do the job that they had earmarked for De Jong.

Antony began to justify his price tag with a goal on his United debut at the weekend

Antony began to justify his price tag with a goal on his United debut at the weekend

CHRISTIAN SPIRIT

Questions were asked about the part Eriksen would play at United having signed as a free agent, but the Dane has been outstanding after a difficult start.

A false nine role against Brighton didn’t work, and neither did a deep midfield position when he returned to his old club Brentford.

Ten Hag made a slight tweak against Arsenal by nudging Eriksen further forward — ‘we put him a little more down the pitch like a No 6/No 8 role’, he said — and that has done the trick. The 30-year-old has excelled in recent games, culminating in Sunday’s man-of-the-match display. United are moving the ball forward more quickly and Eriksen is willing to do some of the dirty work alongside McTominay, Casemiro or Fred.

He is also bringing out the best in Bruno Fernandes, the two combining brilliantly to create United’s second and third goals.

Christian Eriksen has linked up brilliantly with Bruno Fernandes so far this season

Christian Eriksen has linked up brilliantly with Bruno Fernandes so far this season

RASHFORD REBORN

One of the reasons United appointed Ten Hag was his ability to improve players, and there were plenty at Old Trafford who were performing below their potential.

None more so than Marcus Rashford, but United’s No 10 is brimming with confidence and rejuvenated in a central role. The striker’s double against Arsenal took his total to three in four games, not to mention an assist for Antony’s opener on Sunday.

Less than a month after it emerged that Rashford’s representatives had held secret talks with Paris Saint-Germain, the 24-year-old is in top form for his club and knocking on the door for an England recall.

 Marcus Rashford looks to be back to his best and could return to the England side

AXE-MAN ERIK

Ten Hag responded to seeing his defence torn apart by Brentford and Brighton by axing captain Harry Maguire. It was a bold call but it has paid off.

With Maguire on the bench, Martinez has formed a formidable central defensive partnership with Raphael Varane. The pace and tenacity of Malacia and Dalot at full back have helped to turn United into a much tighter defensive unit. After shipping six goals in those opening two games, Ten Hag’s side have conceded just two in the last four outings.

Moreover, the decision to bench senior players such as Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo has laid down a marker to the rest of the squad that no one’s place is safe.

Cristiano Ronaldo was brought on shortly after half-time but wasn't able to find the net

Cristiano Ronaldo was brought on shortly after half-time but wasn't able to find the net

RON ONSIDE

The Ronaldo saga overshadowed Ten Hag’s first months in charge but the Dutchman appears to have won their battle of wills. United resisted Ronaldo’s attempts to force a move and hope the close of the transfer window will draw a line under the issue.

The Portugal star has spent most of the summer brooding but was happy to join in the touchline celebrations when Antony scored against Arsenal.

Ten Hag’s decision to start Ronaldo on the bench so far and use him as an impact substitute has helped to assert his authority.

‘I will be his friend, sometimes I will be his teacher. It depends on the situation,’ he said rather ominously at the weekend.

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