After accelerating their recruitment process in recent weeks, Manchester United are close to making a decision on their next manager. Current Ajax manager Erik ten Hag looks set to take the helm at Old Trafford, after impressing during his interview and establishing himself as the ideal candidate.
Although club sources insist it would be ‘premature’ to say the deal is done, the two sides are undeniably close to an agreement, with the Dutchman set to become United’s fifth permanent manager since retirement by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. So why Ten Hag? What does it offer? What kind of tactical approach will he implement at Old Trafford? And what effect will his appointment have on the club’s transfer targets?
Not to miss
A tactical approach close to Rangnick
As for his preferred formation, Ten Hag used a 4-4-2 (with a diamond in midfield) for the early years of his coaching career before switching to a 4-3-3. Today he prefers the 4-2-3-1, which will obviously be familiar to the current United squad, as it is the same system used by former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the one that caretaker manager Rangnick was also a late pick.
Also, like Rangnick, Ten Hag likes his teams to play high-energy, possession-focused football with players pressing up front. However, Rangnick was unable to fully implement this style in his four months at the club, with the German coach questioning his team’s level of form.
Certainly the players haven’t looked physically capable of sustaining the kind of relentless pressing that Rangnick demands for a full 90 minutes, having never played like this under Solskjaer. For such an intensive approach to work, Ten Hag needs to improve his players’ stamina levels and get them to play with more commitment and drive. This will be easier said than done as some players have criticized Rangnick and his staff’s training sessions.
But those critics will have no place to hide if Ten Hag arrives. Players who have worked with the Dutchman before have noticed his meticulous planning of each session. It is said that he is very keen on video analysis and that he suddenly stops sessions if a player is not in position. Ten Hag will at least be encouraged by the fact that Rangnick has already made it clear to the board that Manchester United need to sign more players with the physique and aggression to play this type of football.
A change in the workforce
GOAL understands that the club are already compiling transfer target lists for each of their priority positions, and that these names will then be presented to the new manager, who will be the deciding factor in deciding which players will be signed. It is also believed that the next manager will be able to present his own targets to the board.
Time is obviously of the essence, which is why the club are so keen to bring in a new manager as soon as possible, in order to start shaping the squad for next season as quickly as possible. But which members of the current squad would already suit Ten Hag’s preferred style of play?
Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Scott McTominay are the players pressing the most, so they should have no problem adapting. Paul Pogba is also well placed, but he is expected to leave when his contract expires this summer. Pressing is also a key part of Donny van de Beek’s game, and if Ten Hag were to take over at Manchester United, the Dutch midfielder, currently on loan at Everton, would likely be welcomed with open arms by his former manager at Manchester United. Old Trafford.
What about Cristiano Ronaldo?
On the other hand, the former members of the team will probably be judged too much. Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani are both out of contract this summer and ready to go, while 33-year-old Nemanja Matic is not expected to be part of the rebuilding project. But what about Cristiano Ronaldo? He doesn’t press as Ten Hag demands, but he has been the club’s top scorer in all competitions this season. An important decision will therefore have to be made on whether it is possible to make room for the prolific Portuguese superstar in the new configuration.
It’s also worth remembering that a new striker is high on Manchester United’s priority list this summer, with a particular interest in Tottenham’s Harry Kane. The next manager will also have to make a choice over Marcus Rashford, who has struggled terribly this season. Still, Ten Hag has revived Sebastien Haller’s career after the centre-forward had a difficult time at West Ham, so perhaps he could do the same for Rashford.
One reinforcement per line expected
Of course, one of the key elements to Ajax’s success is their ability to move quickly through transitions, but Manchester United are hampered in this regard by their midfield composition. Consequently, the club are also hoping to sign a world-class midfielder for the 2022-23 campaign, and West Ham’s Declan Rice is their first choice.
However, it won’t be easy to strike a deal with West Ham, with manager David Moyes insisting it would take an offer of over €200m to convince the Londoners to part ways with their most prized possession. . Manchester United are unlikely to be able to pay such an exorbitant price, but the club will need to find a midfielder capable of stringing together actions if they are to start competing with the world’s best sides for top honors again.
Place for young people
There are also issues in defense, especially as Ten Hag’s approach requires effective attacking full-backs, which could pose problems for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who struggles to get forward. Luke Shaw is obviously much better at attacking, but the Englishman will need to improve his form considerably if he is to retain his starting spot next season. Ten Hag will also have to choose a regular partner for centre-back Raphael Varane, with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly being more comfortable with the ball than captain Harry Maguire, whose performances have been criticized on several occasions this season.
Make no mistake about it: there could be significant losses if Ten Hag takes power, especially because of his desire to bet on the youth, which is perfectly in line with Manchester United traditions. So, which young people could benefit from it? Well, for starters James Garner shone on loan at Nottingham Forest, Anthony Elanga showed he deserved his first-team spot under Rangnick. There are plenty of other exciting talents within the Under-23 and youth sides who could fit Ten Hag’s tactics, but there’s no doubt that a reshuffle major of the team is required.