Erik Ten Hag to Manchester United – Destined for failure or light at the end of the tunnel?

So.. Manchester United are close to appointing Erik ten Hag as their next manager after they verbally agreed on a three-year-contract for the Dutch coach to take over at Old Trafford.

The current Ajax boss seems to have won the race to become the man to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a permanent basis, taking over from Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season.

He pipped the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Brendan Rodgers, Luis Enrique and others to the role if reports are to be believed and fans are delighted at the steps taken to get him in.



There is no doubting that Ten Hag is a great coach. He has built two excellent Ajax sides with an attractive style of football, young players and competed well in Europe too.

But there are doubts around his appointment that people seem to be either overlooking or downright ignoring.

The level of competition in Holland is not that high. Yes his team blew the competition out of the park in recent seasons, but much like PSG that’s kind of what they’re supposed to do.

Performances in Europe are great too, but I would bet large sums of money that United fans wouldn’t want Unai Emery anywhere near Old Trafford’s home dugout and his side have done well in Europe too.

Ten Hag has also never had to deal with the pressures and the egos of dealing with top players and reputations before.

Having the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba in the changing room can often see decisions questioned, naturally, because these players have won things at the very highest level before.

Dealing with those problems will be new to him, and it’s undoubtedly a gamble to bring him in.

But in the same breath, and in his defence, there was no sure-fire appointment for United this time around.

In the past there seemed to be an ideal candidate every time and not bringing them in was seen as silly. Van Gaal was brought in to build a style and blood young players.

He did it, but too slowly and far too pragmatically and when Jose Mourinho became available, the United board couldn’t help themselves.

He was brought in to win immediately and while he is the last Reds manager to win a trophy of any kind, he was detrimental to the development of the team and arguably took the club backwards.

Solskjaer was never cut out for the permanent job and was given the role because of a purple patch of form while he was the interim boss. There was a bit of progress, because he cleared the club of plenty of deadwood and recruited relatively well, but he never had the coaching abilities to compete.

With Ten Hag United are now restarting that process.

They have an incredible conveyor belt of talent coming through the academy right now. Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, James Garner, Ethan Laird, Alejandro Garnacho, Zidane Iqbal and Alvaro Fernandez are all on the brink of senior football.

The first-team still has players that are under-25 who are already involved like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Dean Henderson and Diogo Dalot that Ten Hag can improve and develop.

But United, the club and the fans, must have patience. There is no overnight recipe for success anymore. It doesn’t matter who gets signed or sold, the team needs time to develop.

The coach must be given time to implement his style and ideas, weed out the players who don’t fit in, improve those who do and be backed to compete at the highest level.

While Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola are all in the Premier League with their super-squads it will be incredibly hard for Manchester United to close the gap on them and compete regularly.

But they can close the gap and they will get there, with time and the right decisions being made.

Ten Hag has been given a chance to do that, with a three-year contract and an option for a fourth, but it can go one of two ways.

Either Ten Hag gets the time and trust to complete the process, which he has shown he is capable of doing while at Ajax, or the club demand immediate success and fail to realise the scale and size of the problems they face.

Ten Hag is a great appointment on paper, but football isn’t played on paper. Unless the board fix up and sort the club out, then Ten Hag will just be added to the ever-growing list of disappointments at Old Trafford in recent years.

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