Very few Manchester United fans would have been surprised when their club announced Erik ten Hag as their new manager last Thursday.
It was comfortably the worst kept secret in football, yet the jeopardy came through the disbelief that the United board would be in tandem with the fans on any decision. Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s appointments have focused on past glories rather than future ideas.
Ten Hag poses a risk in that sense. Bar a few Eredivisie crowns, he has yet to master a trophy collection the size of Jose Mourinho’s, for example. Yet it is how the Dutchman views the game that excites so many at the Theatre of Dreams.
In one of his first interviews since being appointed as the manager of United, Ten Hag offered an exciting action plan for United’s on-field revolution — one that will prick the ears of supporters. He told Dutch newspaper Trouw: “I’ll always be myself.
“I will not change my view on coaching. The type of players you have determines the way you play, but I’m in control of the demands and tasks that are asked of the players.
“I decide what task a player has. If someone doesn’t perform his tasks, he will be made aware of that, no matter whom it may be. I will not compromise on that.”
For United supporters it will have come as music to their ears. At times this season, the stark lack of leadership both on and off the field has been alarming. Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick have appeared like rabbits in the headlights watching their team get mauled on the pitch.
They both have watched on in a sorry-looking acceptance that United’s fate was already sealed — as was shown at Anfield last week. It only makes you wonder whether this sort of meagre surrender is being displayed at Carrington behind closed doors.
That’s not known, of course, but what we do know is that Ten Hag is ready to micro-manage each of his players to ensure he gets the very best out of them. It is certainly not going to be the softly-softly approach but after the season United have experienced, the players do not deserve it.
However, it is not just when the ball is on the pitch that the Dutchman wants full control — Ten Hag will make sure he gets it in the boardroom too. He added in his Trouw interview: “I make demands about the way I want to work before I sign.
“If those demands aren’t met, I’m not signing. The buck stops with me and I will be judged on the results of the team.
“I don’t want to be a dictator, I want to work together, but I want to have a say in transfers, that was a condition for me.” With the level of distrust surrounding the United hierarchy following a litany of poor decision in recent years, it is likely that many fans would celebrate a Ten Hag dictatorship.
It’s crazy that a manager would have to insist on having a say on transfers — that should be a given — but the fact Ten Hag is already started to make his presence known to the recruitment team should be cause for celebration. It’s not always been the case at Old Trafford.
United have been desperate for someone to come in and brush away the cobwebs and restore them to greatness. Ten Hag’s perfectionist style will give the club just that, providing a proper reset in the summer. Only then can United get back to the top.
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