Three Erik ten Hag tactical traits at Ajax that Manchester United fans may have missed – Casey Evans

Manchester United fans are starting to get restless about who their next manager is going to be.

Many fans have flocked to social media to call for United to appoint Erik ten Hag, as they have been impressed by his tactical style and achievements at Ajax and think he’d be the right man to take the club forward.

Others want to appoint the Dutchman as they just don’t want Mauricio Pochettino. These fans became more vocal as Paris Saint-Germain crashed out of the Champions League against Real Madrid, putting the Argentine’s job in a precarious position based on the French club’s track record.

But how many United fans have actually watched an Ajax game to justify their claims that Ten Hag is the right man for the job?

In a survey carried out by United analytics account UtdArena on Twitter, a massive 66.4% of replies (out of 52,792 votes) stated that they had not seen a single Ten Hag game.

Now as this was an open vote on Twitter, there is a possibility that non-United fans could have influenced the vote to wind-up their rivals. But taking the result as it stands, I thought I’d break down some aspects of Ten Hag’s management that the casual viewer or someone who has never seen Ajax before might not know.

He really likes his wingers

How this one applies to United is important.

Ten Hag likes his wingers to hold the width as a default, stretching the opposition defence and allowing Ajax’s full-backs to underlap and drive into the spaces this leaves to create chances.

Antony and Dusan Tadic are both experts at this but the rotations are also important, to keep the attacks fresh and also make use of the space provided, the wingers can change spaces and use their movement to get in positions closer to goal. If you want a version of this in the Premier League, Manchester City’s left-hand side now they have added Joao Cancelo is a good example.

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United’s wingers aren’t the greatest at doing this, with many of them preferring to drive into the box to look for goalscoring opportunities, as we have seen Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and even Jadon Sancho. So Ten Hag will look to change this ‘look for goal first’ mentality that has been fostered in the team prior to his potential arrival.

He enjoys having a big man up top

Now fans would more associate the target-man role with the management of Sam Allardyce rather than an elite European coach, but Ten Hag likes having a player who can hold up the ball and use his physicality to help bring others into play.

Originally an ageing Klaus Jan Huntelaar did the job, but more recently Sebastian Haller was signed to be the starting striker and his impact has been exceptional.

Sebastian Haller struggled at West Ham but since he has joined Ajax he has thrived.

The Ivorian forward was the top scorer in the Champions League group stages with 10 goals and in 32 games in all competitions, he has scored 31 goals and provided eight assists in 2021/22.

If United were to appoint Ten Hag this would certainly influence their search for a new striker in the summer, as someone who fits this mould will be vital.

He doesn’t like rotation

One of the criticisms levelled at Ten Hag is his lack of rotation and if he was to come to United this would be something he would need to change.

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United fans have already seen the effect of under rotation during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure, with the likes of Rashford and Bruno Fernandes slowing down towards the end of the 2020/21 season as they were starting to feel the effects of playing too many games.

The only time Ten Hag seems to rotate is when he feels the game is not important and then it is rotation on mass, with a number of players being changed.

The secret to being successful in the Premier League lies somewhere in between, with slight rotation coming every 2-3 games and players being changed depending on the opposition.

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