Erik ten Hag it is!

David Ornstein of the Athletic broke the news of Manchester United having reached a verbal agreement with Erik ten Hag to become their next permanent manager. United had considered a four man shortlist for the job that included Mauricio Pochettino of PSG, Julien Lopetegui of Sevilla and Luis Enrique the Spanish national team coach. It was a dead heat between ten Hag and Pochettino after the other two ruled themselves out and in the online twitter poll that Gary Neville conducted the Dutchman was the overwhelming fans favourite by 82:18 margin while most of ex-United players backed the Argentine. Pochettino was strongly rumoured to take over from Louis van Gaal after meeting Sir Alex Ferguson in May, 2016 and has been linked with United job ever since. Erik ten Hag is seen as more steady with his stock on the rise while Pochettino had a difficult season at PSG with superstar players.

Erik ten Hag will be the second Dutch manager at United after Louis van Gaal, and

  • at 52 years of age would be around the same age as when Jose Mourinho took over in 2016
  • with a 4-years contract is the second lengthiest after Moyes' 6-years in post Ferguson era
  • he was assistant to former Sir Alex Ferguson assistant Steve McClaren at FC Twente in 2008 and McClaren could return to United if ten Hag wants
  • perhaps the first defender in his playing days to manage United since 1946 and played for FC Twente in 3 stints winning the Dutch Cup in 2001. All other previous United managers were either wing halfs or forwards as players.
  • None of the previous managers after Ferguson have even last 3 years. Gaffer used to say it takes 4 years to have all XI starting players of ones choice.

His best moment came in 2018-19 season in Champions' League when Ajax defeated Real Madrid who were attempting to win 4th straight trophy, by 4-1 and at Santiago Bernabeu with Dusan Tadic getting a perfect 10 score for his performance in that match! Ajax then beat Juventus in quater-finals but lost to Tottenham managed by Pochettino in semis in 96th minute. That season Ajax won Eredivisie for the first time in 5 years! United have not won the league since 2013. Both clubs have good academies and Erik ten Hag is known to bring players through. Despite losing most of his brightest young players he not only created a new winning team and won Eredivisie again in 2020-21 but changed the style, from false 9 and inverted wingers to out-an-out number 9 with wingers. In this seasons Champions' League Ajax won all 6 of their group stage matches against Borussia Dotmund, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas but lost in the knock-out phase to Benfica with Darwin Nunez, a target for United to replace Edinson Cavani scoring the winner. In the knock-out phases ten Hag has had more favourable results away than at home at the Amstredam Arena.

At United the Glazers love big name players like Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo who generate lot of social media buzz. Hope Joel Glazer, Richard Arnold and John Murtough understand that they would need to stand by their manager in any event of a contest with those big name players. If they repeat the stance they took against Jose Mourinho they will help repeat the chaos of last 9 years not rectify it. Having understood the setup first-hand Ralf Rangnick can play a crucial role to ease Erik ten Hag who has thrived under director of football at Ajax but the structure at United is still vague with most decisions deferred to Glazers. Stadium re-development plans having been initiated the board must ensure that does not drain the resources for investment in the first team. Board must act quickly to get the transfers done early in order for Erik ten Hag to have a full pre-season(Thailand and Australia) to mould the squad that failed previously to adapt to Rangnick's 4-2-2-2 itself. He often stresses on a particular trait "creating space for others with off-the ball runs" which United players can only embrace in training. Incidentally lack of standard 'training'  was one of the major issues pointed out by players about the regime of Solskjaer and Rangnick, with ten Hag that will be firmly resolved.

After an underwhelming season a host of United players are nearing their end of contracts(6) which will clear the squad for a rebuild - exit of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Lee Grant should free up the wage bill enomously. Under utilized players(3) like Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and decide the futures of players returning from loan(7) like Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Andeas Pereira, Tahith Chong, Amad, Facundo Pellistri. Thats easily about 12 players as Amad and Pellistri are highly rated youngsters! One player most thrilled by this appointment will be Donny van de Beek. Crucial will be to bring in 4 to 5 young and hungry players to spruce up the squad and not repeat the mistake made under Moyes where only Fellaini and Mata were brought in. Availability of Anthony Elanga and James Garner will be of tremendous help. While the biggest question is not the future of Cristiano Ronaldo but of Mason Greenwood and especially if he cannot play regularly next season United will have to prioritize the signing of a forward like Darwin Nunez urgently.

Based on available resource Erik ten Hag has modified the team's style of play at Ajax. At United will Harry Maguire be able to play a high defensive line? Will the handicap of McTominay and Fred be finally over? Luke Shaw's defensive liability be tolerated? Over reliance on Bruno Fernandes be reduced? Struggling Marcus Rashford regain his form? Chose between David de Gea or Dean Henderson? Problems of plenty but lacking the ability to control the game from midfield. A single high profile signing of Declan Rice or combination of Reuben Neves, Aurelien Tchouameni, Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma or Kalvin Phillips. On a positive note Erik tan Hag can in the future look to pick from players who have reached the FA Youth Cup finals in Alejandro Garnacho, Charlie McNeil, Kobbie Mainoo, Daniel Gore, Marc Juardo, Rhys Bennett et al, an option and quality in such numbers unavailable to most of his predecessors as United's previous final was in 2011.

United move from having the guru of Jurgen Klopp in Ralf Rangnick as interim manager to former assistant to Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich where he trained the players to be ready for the first team while playing in the same style. Tottenham's ascent to 4th spot with the best manager available then in Antonio Conte proves yet again that it is the singlemost important appointment at a football club. Guardiola, Klopp, Tuchel and Conte all but fortifying the top 4 the best that can be expected of ten Hag is 5th place finish next season but importantly a clear style of play with Manchester United DNA.

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