Erik ten Hag has been tasked with trying to galvanise Manchester United and to say he has a big job on his hands would be something of an understatement.
It will be a brave new era for the Dutch tactician, who will be taking over the reins from incumbent Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season. A rebuild is needed and there have been reports circulating recently that Ten Hag will be given £200 million to spend in the summer window.
Of course, United’s demise over the past few seasons has been well documented. Rekindling the glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a challenge, but the likes of Louis van Gaal, David Moyes and Jose Mourinho have come up short.
But in Ten Hag, this represents a brave new era for all those connected to United. He’s done an incredible job at Ajax, winning five trophies in the past four seasons, including the Eredivisie. Whereas at United, they just equalled their longest trophy drought in 40 years.
Ten Hag is an ambitious man and his coaching philosophy resembles that of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He likes to set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and it revolves around pushing high up the pitch.
Although it may lack the intense pressing game (gegenpress) that has been adopted by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, Ten Hag likes to see his side chase in packs and regain possession quickly.
When discussing Ten Hag’s style, former United goalkeeper Raimond Van der Gouw has made it clear that the free-flowing football United fans will expect starts at the training ground.
He said: “If you work with Ajax, you have to score a lot of goals and play attractive football because that’s what the fans expect and that’s traditional.
“If Ten Hag wants United to play the way he played at Ajax, the team has to be working together. The whole team will defend together and put pressure on the ball all over the pitch.
“You need a team performance, and if you do that then it’s easier for the goalkeeper. You attack and defend together.”
Of course, United will be under the microscope in the Premier League, and they could even be participating in Europe’s third-tier competition – the Europa League Conference next season. It’s not just the fans that will be watching on with a mixture of fear and excitement next season. United will spark frenzied interest from leading bookmakers all over the world and expectations will be high for a club of the Red Devils’ stature and prestige.
Indeed, there are bookmaker sites in Australia that will be rushing to post odds on how United will fare when the new season resumes in August. Some of the leading sportsbooks, such as Unibet are already offering futures prices on whether United will win a trophy or finish in the top four.
Either way, Ten Hag must hit the ground running and he needs to be clear about how he intends to implement his ideas. United surely can’t be any worse than they were this season, and a top-four finish should be the minimum requirement as they are currently a long way off from challenging for the title.
If Ten Hag can cut out the noise around him, then he can make an immediate impression. Maybe he might deliver a trophy, but you ought to whisper that one quietly!