Erik Ten Hag: What to know about the Man Utd candidate

Many sources claim that Manchester United is close to signing Erik Ten Hag as the club’s next manager, and the loss against Everton definitely increased the speculations about the need for a new manager.

The Red Devils parted ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in late November 2021, when the team was eighth in the Premier League, and they have been stepping up their hunt for a permanent manager in recent weeks. Since Solskjaer’s departure, United has been guided by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, although permanent hiring has been on the horizon.

Mauricio Pochettino was also highly regarded, but the Red Devils turned to Ten Hag because of the high cost of releasing him from his PSG contract. With that, the Dutchman Ten Hag is apparently close to being officially appointed as Manchester United’s next permanent manager.

Who Is Erik Ten Hag?

Erik Ten Hag, 52, was born in the Netherlands and has progressed through the levels of Dutch football, first as a player and now as a coach.

Erik Ten Hag Ajax Coach
Erik Ten Hag Ajax Coach

Ten Hag was born in the Dutch province of Twente in the town of Haaksbergen. He had a 13-year playing career, highlighted by three distinct stints with Eredivisie club FC Twente.

Ten Hag, regarded as one of the world’s rising managerial stars, has been coaching since 2012, ten years after his retirement as a player.

Ten Hag’s History

The former Twente defender retired in 2002 as a member of the FC Twente club, where he played for eight of his twelve seasons. After retiring, he continued on to coach in the Twente junior system, taking command of the Under-17 and Under-19 teams before moving up to the senior side as an assistant manager under Fred Rutten and Steven McClaren.

He left Twente in 2009 to rejoin Rutten at PSV, where he helped lead the squad to the Dutch Cup triumph.

Ten Hag landed his first senior managerial position with Eerste Divisie (second division) team Go Ahead Eagles, who were brought in by shareholder Marc Overmars. Before joining Pep Guardiola’s coaching team at Bayern Munich’s reserve side, he managed the club’s first-team playoff promotion.

Pep Guardiola and Erik Ten Hag
Pep Guardiola and Erik Ten Hag

Ten Hag returned to the Netherlands after two seasons in Germany to take over as manager and sports director of Eredivisie club FC Utrecht. He guided Utrecht to fifth- and fourth-place places in the league, the latter of which was the club’s third-best ever performance in the league and its best since the 1980s, gaining Europa League participation.

Ten Hag then went to Ajax in 2017, where he has won several trophies and garnered international acclaim for his youth development and European achievements.

ClubsDateRecord (W-D-L)Win Percentage
Go Ahead EaglesJuly 1, 2012 – June 6, 201318-10-1146.2
Bayern Munich IIJune 6, 2013 – May 22, 201548-14-1066.7
FC UtrechtMay 22, 2015 – Decemeber 27, 201756-29-2650.5
AFC AjaxDecember 28, 2017 – Present154-28-2674
Eric Ten Hag’s coaching record

Ten Hag’s first three managing spells were trophyless, but things changed when he joined Ajax.

Ten Hag has won the Dutch league twice and the Dutch Cup twice since taking over the Dutch giants. He may have won a third championship had COVID-19 not ended the Dutch league early in 2019-20, but no title was granted. Ajax leads the Eredivisie by four points, four points ahead of PSV.

In Europe, he has yet to win a trophy, although he has played well at times, like the 2018-19 season when he led the team to the Champions League semifinals, defeating Real Madrid. Tottenham staged a late comeback to win 3-2 on aggregate.

Ten Hag has won the Dutch Coach of the Year award twice, first with FC Utrecht and again with Ajax in 2019. In the same year, he came fourth in FIFA’s global Coach of the Year award.

What is his philosophy?

Erik Ten Hag, who freely admits to being greatly inspired by Pep Guardiola during his time at Bayern Munich, has used a more attack-minded 4-2-4 at Ajax to great success this season.

After a disappointing two-year stay at West Ham, striker Sebastien Haller has seen a revival in the aggressive attitude, scoring an astounding 46 goals in 59 Ajax appearances. As of April 3, the team has established an astounding goal differential record in the Eredivisie competition, with an astonishing 83 goals scored to only 14 goals conceded in 28 games played in 2021-22.

“Guardiola taught me a lot.” “Ten Hag said in 2019. “His philosophy is fantastic, as seen by his work with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and now Manchester City. Because of his aggressive and appealing manner, he wins a lot. This is the structure I’ve attempted to construct using Ajax.”

While the 4-2-4 may be lethal, Ajax also benefits from being a large fish in a little pond, allowing it to stack the deck against considerably lesser Eredivisie opponents. His Champions League campaign in 2018-19 featured a similar but somewhat more pragmatic 4-3-3 with a double-pivot in midfield that has its origins in Dutch football but has grown extremely popular throughout the world over the previous decade.

He has also been known to use a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 diamond, however his variations of those formations all have the same essential characteristics, with a pair of midfielders in the center who play off one other and a pair of aggressive wingers who pin opposition full-backs to their own end lines.

Ten Hag’s adherence to Total Football, the Dutch-born theory of employing triangles to overload critical areas of the play both on and off the ball, distinguishes him as a manager. This style capitalizes on the adaptability of players in different places on the field, enabling them to move freely across the field. This has been extensively accepted over the world in the past 15-20 years, but Ten Hag is a devout follower of the concept.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong became an international phenomenon during the legendary 2019 Champions League run owing to his ability to play several positions in midfield, winning him a transfer to Barcelona. Ten Hag also aided the growth of Hakim Ziyech and Matthijs de Ligt, both of whom went on to play for larger European teams.

His role at Man Utd

Erik ten Hag’s impending arrival at Manchester United will not need a significant makeover of the team, with the current Ajax manager committing to a five-year plan at Old Trafford.

However, as part of a deal to encourage him to quit the Eredivisie, he is anticipated to be handed big sums for new recruits this summer.

Ten Hag has already begun background work as he prepares to replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick, with West Ham’s Declan Rice and Benfica’s Darwin Nunez listed as transfer targets.

The figurative war chest hasn’t exactly helped his predecessors, but he’ll have a more balanced staff working with him to discover prospective recruits, with Darren Fletcher named director of football and Richard Arnold taking over from Ed Woodward at the conclusion of the season.

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