What Erik ten Hag can bring to Manchester United?


The Manchester United limbo goes on, but there can be a fresh start in the summer, with the likelihood being that current interim manager, Ralf Rangnick will not remain it that role, leaving it open, for United to once again start again.

One of the main men being touted to start a new era in Manchester, is current Ajax manager Erik ten Hag, with rumours that he has already held positive talks with the club.

The Dutch boss began his footballing life playing as a defender for FC Twente, from this he would go on to make over 300 appearances for four teams, including three spells at Twente.

He began his managerial career 2012, being appointed as manager of Go Ahead Eagles by Marc Overmars, the man who would later help him get the Ajax job. After leading the team to it’s first promotion in 17 years, ten Hag left for a stint at Bayern Munich’s second team before moving onto FC Utrecht, first in a Sporting Director role, before taking over as manager.

At the end of 2017, he was appointed as manager of Ajax. Since then he has led his team to a UEFA Champions League Semi-Final and two Eredivisie title’s, with Ajax currently top of the table this season.

When ten Hag first took over at Ajax he attempted to implement the use of the 4-3-3 formation, something he had found success with at Utrecht, before converting the team to 4-2-3-1, the formation that worked very effectively in the teams Champions League run in 2018/19.

The main beating point of ten Hag’s successful teams have been the use of the double-pivot in midfield. In this case it included Frenkie de Jong and Lasse Schone. They would sit in-front of the back four, picking up attacking players, but also constantly supplying the fluid attacking quartet in front, that usually contained Dusan Tadic, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech.

Ten hag has also shown versatility within his style, returning to 4-3-3 this season. With the addition of Sebastian Haller, the team gained a new focal point, and does not contain the likes of de Jong anymore. The emergence of Ryan Gravenberch has allowed Ajax to have a more fluid midfield three that can push up, whilst also covering back, this has allowed the teams fullback’s to go forward more, and allow players such as Tadic, who in 2018/19 played more centrally but know play on the wing, to still push in, with the addition of a striker in the centre.

Defensively, with 4-2-3-1, ten Hag’s team often used the double-pivot to stop the majority of opposition’s attacks. In addition to this the majority of the team’s midfield would drop back when the side lost possession. In 4-3-3, the main difference is the central striker would often stay forward, with the rest of the team focusing on heavy pressure on the ball.

The Dutch manager’s fluid style and ability to adapt could be just what United need, if he is allowed to bring in players he wants, and ship out those who don’t buy in.

A sticking point could be that he will not have faced the same pressure’s as he would, should he come to Manchester, with some saying Mauricio Pochettino could be a better option. But ten Hag offers a better option to work in tandem with Rangnick, should he move to a boardroom role.

Bringing in ten Hag would be a risky but innovative move by Manchester United, but also one that could really pay off down the line.


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