Erik Ten Hag spoke to the media for the very first time as Manchester United manager on Monday afternoon, not even 24 hours after the conclusion of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign.
The Dutchman shook the hands of many reporters upon arrival in the media room, giving a warm greeting to others. He spoke well on certain matters, appearing very professional in his responses.
Here are five key takeaways from what Ten Hag had to say as his tenure in the Old Trafford hot-seat begins…
1. Analysing the current crop
It was asked if Ten Hag agrees with Ralf Rangnick that up to 10 reinforcements were needed to the first team squad. The 52-year-old responded by saying that “I am still in the process of analysing to set conclusions” and that “I am looking forward to working with these players”.
He went on to add that “the season before, this squad was second in the league, so there is huge potential” and that “I think we can get out more than what is now the result from this season”.
With that being said, when asked about whether recruitment of players is key, Ten Hag responded bluntly by saying “Yes, it’s right. Recruitment is an important part”.
Asked about whether or not he will speak with the players this week, Ten Hag said that “No, I don’t speak with the players now. They need a break… but I want to wait until the end of June for some players and the majority in the first week of July”.Embed from Getty Images
Inevitably, he was queried as to whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo fits in with the project that he looks to oversee. “Of course” was the answer of the former Ajax head coach, and when asked about what Ronaldo could bring, he smiled and simply said “goals”. It was poised to Ten Hag if he is looking for more leadership from the Portuguese great, essentially to lead the new project. The new manager shut down the Ronaldo prodding, saying “I will talk first with Ronaldo before I talk with you”.
Ten Hag was further asked if he feels that Harry Maguire should remain as club captain. The boss stressed that “next season is a different season. I think he did a great job; he is a great player. He achieved already a lot. A really good contribution to Manchester United. So I am looking forward to working with him.”Embed from Getty Images
And finally, on whether or not he is looking forward to working with Donny van de Beek again, Ten Hag said “Of course. We had a fantastic squad in our time at Ajax. I have a really good relationship with him and I am looking forward to meeting again on the pitch.”
These were relatively expected responses from the new manager in relation to the players. He was always going to sing the praises of Ronaldo, give Maguire a boost and recall his time at Ajax with van de Beek.
His comments in relation to the squad finishing second in 2020/21 were interesting, though. He noted that there must be potential in this team for them to finish runners-up, but fans will know that it was a massively flawed second-place finish. With Liverpool suffering a major injury crisis and Chelsea disjointed after Lampard’s sacking mid-season, the runners-up spot was there to be grabbed. That is without mentioning the counter-attacking style of football where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ground out small wins with defensive setups. Perhaps Ten Hag should keep it low-key with that one.
Ten Hag confirmed that he will not speak to the players until late June at the earliest. This is a huge positive, as it allows people like Rangnick, Murtough, Fletcher and co to give the new manager a good insight into who is worth keeping and who needs to be shown the door; players who are bad eggs will not get the chance to suck up to Ten Hag, allowing an accurate choice on their futures to be made.
2. Role of othersEmbed from Getty Images
When asked if he had spoken to people about joining United, Ten Hag said “Of course, I have spoken with people to get an idea”. He was later asked about potential conversations with Louis Van Gaal and Daley Blind, who are both ex-servants of the club. It was a short and simple response from Erik, who said “I spoke with more people who have experience with this club. Experts, but finally I will draw my own line”, also adding that he definitely spoke with Van Gaal specifically at the premiere of his movie.
Steve McClaren and Mitchell van der Gaag were recently announced to be joining Ten Hag on the mission to bring United back to the top. When asked to provide an example of what the pair could bring, the response was that “they both know how to get success because they’ve both won titles, trophies in their careers, and that’s why they are here”.Embed from Getty Images
One of the final questions of the presser drew on Van Gaal again. This time it was in relation to the comments that the former United boss made in relation to the club being too commercially orientated rather than being a football club. Ten Hag said that “I draw my own line and I’m convinced that is not the case. I spoke to the directors about it and football is one, two, three these days. Every club these days is commercial. Every club needs it. To be successful you need to do what is necessary, but football is one, two, three in this club.”
Again, these responses were expected of the manager. He will have spoken to people prior to joining and will know what McLaren and van de Gaag will bring. He was never going to call his new employers commercially orientated in front of the world media, either.
3. Getting United back on topEmbed from Getty Images
Ten Hag is here for a reason – to return United to the glory days. One reporter asked early on in the presser if Ten Hag was confident of a turnaround of the club’s fortunes. He said that “I have a good feeling with the people around. I have a good feeling from the meetings. We have a plan and now it’s about getting the plan done, to get it into process. To co-operate, to be consistent in our plan, and when we have good people around with the right connection and the right commitment, we will achieve the success we want to”.
It was questioned as to if the new manager was excited by the idea of having a blank canvas to work with. Ten Hag responded by saying “That is on the club. They have to set conditions and I have to work with my squad to achieve success. That is what I am looking forward to and we have a strategy so we have a concept, and we will work on that”.
He was further queried on as to how long he thinks it will be before United are back challenging. He said “I don’t think about that in this moment. What we are thinking about is that this is a project, which I know always takes time, but I know that in this club… we want to win… so we go from game to game and then we will see”.Embed from Getty Images
Asked as to whether or not anyone can win a title whilst Guardiola and Klopp are around, Ten Hag said “I admire them both. They play, in this moment, really fantastic football, both Liverpool and Manchester City. But you will always see that an era can come to an end. I am looking forward to battling with them and I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League will want to do that”.
It was fighting talk from Erik all round in relation to United getting back to the top. Exactly what fans wanted to hear, particularly the part about how all eras can come to an end, referencing Man City’s dominance and Liverpool’s prominence of late.
4. Role of Ralf RangnickEmbed from Getty Images
Whilst managing the Austrian national team, it is believed that Rangnick will have a part-time consultancy role at the club. It was noted by a journalist that Rangnick has been vocal about what changes need to be made, and it was asked whether or not Ten Hag will sit down with the 63-year-old. The response was a strange one: “I think it’s part of my analysis. I analyse by myself, I observe, and I will speak with a lot of people. But finally, I will draw my own line”.
The Dutchman was additionally asked as to whether or not he advocates Rangnick’s consultancy role, responding simply with “That is on the club”.
It was very cryptic in relation to Rangnick. It makes you wonder as to whether or not the German has a future at the club in any capacity whatsoever. Perhaps Ten Hag was just eager to stress that it will be him who is the boss and nobody else. You would think that a footballing man of Ten Hag’s calibre would appreciate having a mastermind like Rangnick behind the scenes. The proof will be in the pudding in relation to Rangnick, for sure.
5. The Mancunian lureEmbed from Getty Images
Away from the gruelling matters of rebuilding the club, Erik was asked about his first impressions of Manchester. He said that “I have been in Manchester [before], but this is the first time I’ve been at Old Trafford and I’m impressed. It feels like my home already and I cannot wait until the first match and the stand is full. It will be an exciting experience”.
He was then questioned on whether or not he is looking forward to the Old Trafford crowd and atmosphere. The Dutchman responded by saying “I have seen a lot in the past with big teams of Man United. They have a lot of generations that are really successful and there is a fantastic ambience always at Old Trafford, and I am really looking forward to getting that experience”.Embed from Getty Images
One journalist interpreted that Man United was Ten Hag’s favourite club as a boy. Erik said that “It was. Seriously, for England. In every country, I have a favourite club. In England, Man United”.
It was not the conventional response from Ten Hag when asked if he had researched the club’s rich history prior to joining, either. He said, “No. The reason is, although it is a fantastic history, the reason is there is a high potential for the future. That’s why I am here”.
These were very typical new manager responses that will appease the fans. Although, the last response about having not researched the club history was a refreshing one. There is way too much focus on the past rather than the present at United nowadays, so this was a breath of fresh air reply from a man with a winning mentality.
The full Erik Ten Hag press conference can be found here: Full transcript: Every word from Erik ten Hag’s first press conference as Man Utd boss | Manchester United