Since Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer parted ways in November, there’s since been a lot of speculation over who will take the helm at Old Trafford on a permanent basis next season. According to various reports, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is currently leading the race to fill the managerial void at United.
Who is he?
Over the last few years, Ten Hag has established himself as one of the best managers in Europe. The Dutchman began his career as manager of Eredivisie club Go Ahead Eagles. After a year at the club, he left and became manager of Bayern Munich II. After a relatively successful two years in Germany, he left and returned home to the Netherlands where he took over as manager of FC Utrecht. He left the club after managing 111 games and then immediately joined Dutch giants Ajax where he’s been since December 2017.Embed from Getty Images
In his 4 years at the club, Ten Hag has won five trophies including a couple of league titles. However, he’s best known for what he’s achieved in Europe. Ten Hag was the mastermind behind Ajax’s 2018/19 team which shocked Europe by making it to the Champions League semi-final. To get to that point, Ajax knocked out European giants Real Madrid in the round of 16 after demolishing Los Blancos at the Bernabeu. They also knocked out Juventus in the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate, a tie United’s very own Donny van de Beek scored in. Despite all that though, they narrowly fell short against Spurs in that tie. The Dutch side were also very impressive in the Champions League group stage this season winning all 6 group games but were unfortunately knocked out in the round of 16 against Benfica.Embed from Getty Images
Reports claim that the two main names on Manchester United’s managerial shortlist are Mauricio Pochettino and Ten Hag himself. Recent suggestions claim Ten Hag has emerged as United’s no.1 option and that the Dutchman would be keen on taking over as manager at the Theatre of Dreams.
Style of PlayEmbed from Getty Images
During his time at Ajax, ten Hag mainly used a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system using a midfield 3 usually consisting of a defensive midfielder, one box-to-box player and someone in a slightly more advanced role. Ten Hag also likes his teams to play out from the back which requires a keeper who’s good at distribution, something which could potentially pose questions over De Gea’s ability to play under the Dutchman. His style of play is also suited to having a target man playing down the middle – a role Sébastien Haller has fulfilled brilliantly since joining the club.Embed from Getty Images
Defensively, Ajax have been fantastic this season having only conceded 11 goals in 26 Eredivisie games*. They’ve been sensational in attack as well, having already scored 77 goals in the Eredivisie this season as well as 20 goals in the Champions League group stage.
In addition to playing an attractive style of football and winning trophies, Ten Hag has also done a brilliant job at Ajax in terms of developing youth. Under his management, Donny van de Beek, Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Ryan Gravenberch, Jurrien Timber along with others have developed into household names. De Jong, De Ligt and Van de Beek left the club for a combined fee in the region of €200 million. Gravenberch is obviously still there but is attracting interest from some of Europe’s elite clubs like Bayern Munich. While Jurrien Timber’s development under Ten Hag has gone under the radar, he really is turning into a top-class player.
VerdictEmbed from Getty Images
When you think of a United manager, you think of someone who can win trophies, play a good brand of football and develop youth and Erik ten Hag ticks every box. The Dutchman has proved himself at Ajax and this summer would be a great time to take on a new challenge. While he doesn’t have experience in the Premier League, he has been very successful against some quality opponents in the Champions League.
With all that said though, United are currently in a mess and a massive reset is needed. Anyone who takes over has a huge job on their hands. In addition to the squad being a mess, any manager in world football would find it challenging to succeed under the ownership of the Glazers. The next manager appointed will be the club’s 5th permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and United simply cannot afford to get it wrong again.
*At time of writing