‘Every morning he’d check the grass was the right length’ March 22, 2022 – Posted in: Soccer
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has reportedly become the firm favourite to become the new Manchester United boss.
The Red Devils remain on the hunt for a permanent man to take charge at Old Trafford before the beginning of next season.
Ralf Rangnick has taken charge of the club on an interim basis before he moves to a ‘consultancy’ role at the end of the season.
And his successor in the dugout could be the highly sought-after Ten Hag.
The Sun report that the Ajax boss has come out on top following exhaustive background checks by United on their possible targets.
The Dutchman’s reputation has skyrocketed since he arrived at Ajax in 2017 and he has transformed the Amsterdam outfit from a state of turmoil into Eredivisie kings and Champions League contenders.
His possession-based style of ‘Total Football’ has naturally drawn comparisons with his legendary compatriot Johan Cruyff.
But Ten Hag himself credits a lot of his philosophy to Pep Guardiola – who is in the opposite dugout at United’s rivals Man City.
Pep and Current Ajax Coach, Erik Ten Hag together at Bayern pic.twitter.com/WC4a57aes8
— The Pep (@GuardiolaTweets) April 16, 2019
Etihad chief Guardiola drafted in Ten Hag while he was in charge of Bayern Munich to act as the German club’s reserve team manager.
Speaking in 2019, he said: “I learned a lot from Guardiola.
“His philosophy is sensational, what he did in Barcelona, Bayern and now with Manchester City, that attacking and attractive style sees him win a lot.
“It’s this structure that I’ve tried to implement with Ajax.”
As well as football philosophies, Ten Hag also shares Guardiola’s meticulous attention to detail that made him such a promising young coach.
His first managerial stint came at then-second-tier Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles where he led them to promotion during his only term in charge.
“Behind every training session, there was an idea,” Marnix Kolder, Go Ahead’s captain at the time, told the Independent.
“He makes every player better. Tactical, physical. Erik left nothing to chance. He was prepared for every opponent, down to the last detail.”
“Every morning he’d go to the pitch to see if the grass was high enough,” added retired midfielder Sjoerd Overgoor.
Ten Hag’s time at Ajax has been dominated by trophies thus far, winning five trophies since United last won one – which ironically came at Ajax’s expense in the 2017 Europa League before he took over.
Earlier this year, he became the fastest manager in Eredivisie history to reach 100 wins with ‘De Godenzonen’.
But curiously United’s arch-rivals Liverpool are one of just two teams that seem to have the better of Ten Hag’s Ajax.
During that epic run to the Champions League semi-finals, his side secured memorable scalps against the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus.
However, of the 90 different opponents he has faced in his ten-year-long managerial career he has only failed to defeat or even draw against two teams.
Unfortunately for United fans, one of those is Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool – who did the double over Ajax in the Champions League last year.
But a major positive for Red Devils fans is Ten Hag’s work with youth, having brought through Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt.
He would also relish the chance to work with Donny van de Beek once again after expressing his disbelief at the way his ex-midfielder’s career in England has panned out.
Van de Beek’s performances at Ajax earned him a big-money move to Old Trafford in September 2020 but he has since been farmed out on loan to Everton after limited opportunities at United.
Ten Hag told de Volkskrant: “Donny, I find that hard. [It’s a] mortal sin.
“If you haven’t had a chance yet, then development will also stall. Every now and then you encourage them.”
There are a few more United players, most namely Marcus Rashford, who would definitely benefit from that Ten Hag encouragement.
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