If Manchester United wanted a true test of the progress they have made this season, then they will get it over the next week when they face Barcelona twice in their Europa League play-off tie.
In the long run, Ten Hag wants his side to go toe-to-toe with the very best teams and beat them at their own game, but in this first season of transition, he has found that the best way to get positive results has been by embracing their underdog status.
The first two results of the season provided a rethink and a reality check for the United manager, and in the third, his side played on the counter-attack as they picked off Liverpool to secure a win that laid the foundations for their revival.
United have got better at smothering smaller sides into submission and winning ugly on a more regular basis, but in games against the top teams, they have largely reverted to the same counter-attacking approach that sees them sit back and hurt teams on the break.
It is this tactical set-up that will be key for United against Barcelona, with their win over Man City a month ago providing the ideal blueprint to record another famous result.
Ten Hag believes United play their best football when Anthony Martial is on the pitch, and they will need either him or Marcus Rashford to lead the line, given their mobility through the middle.
On what could be a night of few opportunities for United, they need to make sure they pick three forwards who are clinical enough to make them count when they come their way.