Manchester United are closing in on the appointment of Ajax boss Erik ten Hag and is expected to be announced before the end of the month ahead of taking over this summer
Manchester United are hoping for a drastic change in fortunes when Erik ten Hag is officially unveiled as the club’s next permanent manager.
United are closing in on an agreement with the Ajax boss and it is anticipated he could be formally announced before the end of the month. Ten Hag will be the fifth permanent successor to Sir Alex Ferguson and will arrive at Old Trafford amid a generational malaise.
Having failed to lift a trophy this season, United’s trophy drought is destined to reach almost six years before the EFL Cup final comes around next year. That signifies the Red Devils’ longest wait for silverware it in four decades and a sign of just how far they have fallen since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Since he hung up the hairdryer, United have appeared to go down every route in order to replace him, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all failing to live up to expectations.
Solskjaer’s appointment always felt like one sanctioned in order to unite a dressing room that had been divided and broken by the ‘once Special One’ Mourinho. The Norwegian appeared a polar opposite to almost everything his predecessor has become.
Where Mourinho would blast his players in public, Solskjaer was an arm around the shoulder. Rather than meticulous and often painstakingly detailed planning under Mourinho, it often felt that Solskjaer’s tactical plan amounted to little more than telling players ‘enjoy yourself’ and then dusting off the 1999 Champions League final VHS.
And when things were going well, it felt like the perfect approach. There is a feeling from the outside that United’s pampered under-performers have grown accustomed to the easy life, with accusations of an ‘teacher’s pets’ and a more relaxed approach to training.
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But when results eluded him, desperate to point the blame anywhere but themselves, players were believed to be disillusioned by his coaching methods. Mirror Football reported that many within Carrington felt that sessions had become too basic and ‘very British in its approach’.
The appointment of Ten Hag suggests that United are ready to once again zig, after zagging by keeping on Solskjaer. The 52-year-old is understood to be a relentless taskmaster, with the expectation he could yet introduce two sessions a day.
And those basic sessions will also be a thing of the past, with Robbin Ruiter, who played under Ten Hag at Utrecht, offering a glimpse in the uber-precise sessions the incoming United boss will set out.
“You could tell he was at a very high level tactically from the start,” Ruiter told the Independent. “Especially in the beginning it was every 20 seconds during training games it was: ‘Stop.’ “You would have to stop and he’d explain what he wanted. But a few weeks later, everyone knew and the impact on the team was so positive so no-one needed to stop.
“Every single detail was covered – not just the opponents but our own team. You could tell Erik was special, something very different. His level of obsession with football is something else, it is 24/7 for him. He was a great coach and a great person.”
Ruiter also revealed that the sessions were long and intense and warned it could take some getting used to: “In the beginning a lot of players had doubts about the way we trained. It wasn’t normal.
“We’d come from a coach who gave us a lot of freedom and a lot of fun – laughing and joking around – and we went to a coach like Erik who was putting us through three hours on the pitch where you don’t think you’re doing much. Players were thinking ‘What are we doing?
“But slowly, you realise you’re getting better as a team. We had a game and a lot of things on the training ground came together – it gave us a big boost.”
After years of small-sided games and ‘basic’ training under Solskjaer, things could be about to drastically change. United players’ complaints could yet come back to haunt them.