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Ten Hag’s five-point plan to TRANSFORM United: Fix the toxic dressing room… and get team RUNNING!

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1649887162 56566615 10714431 Image A 1 1649854280660.jpg
1649887162 56566615 10714431 Image A 1 1649854280660.jpg

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As he chases a third Dutch double in the space of four years with Ajax, Erik ten Hag knows he is about to swap domination in Holland for an altogether less stable environment at Manchester United.

Gary Neville described his old club as ‘a graveyard for reputations’ this week, and recent history suggests that Ten Hag should make the most of Sunday’s cup final against title rivals PSV Eindhoven because it might be his last for a while.

In many ways, Ajax are the polar opposite of the modern-day Manchester United: a well-run club with a defined structure, clear identity and a winning team.

Sportsmail looks at the challenges facing Ten Hag as he prepares to become the fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson to try to restore United to their former glory.

Erik ten Hag has verbally agreed to take over as Manchester United manager in the summer

Erik ten Hag has verbally agreed to take over as Manchester United manager in the summer

Manage the big egos

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arm-around-the-shoulder approach ultimately didn’t work, and Ralf Rangnick has been undermined from the start by his interim role.

Previously, United had two powerful figureheads in Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, and there is already concern among United staff over another Dutch manager, such is the legacy of Van Gaal’s authoritarian regime.

Ten Hag is a skilled tactician who is known more for his attention to detail than his man-management capabilities.

But this is a club crying out for strong leadership and a clear ethos on and off the field under a manager who has the full backing of his employers to get it right.

Big egos will be a challenge for the Dutchman after working with a largely young squad at Ajax

Big egos will be a challenge for the Dutchman after working with a largely young squad at Ajax 

A major rebuilding job is required at Old Trafford and it will be fascinating to see how Ten Hag handles the big personalities who remain next season given that he has worked with a largely young squad at Ajax.

Former Tottenham star Rafael van der Vaart has no doubt that his compatriot will crack the whip, saying: ‘These players can’t have any excuses any more. They made so many managers leave while they are playing so badly.

‘Now they get a manager who will be very clear and will present his plan. Those who won’t co-operate will get thrown out.’

However, one dressing-room source at Ajax told Sportsmail on Wednesday that Ten Hag’s decision to keep playing Daley Blind is proof that he can be swayed by status.

‘There’s been criticism of him for playing Blind just because of the surname, so we’re curious to see how he handles Cristiano Ronaldo and Co,’ said the insider.

Ten Hag will need more running, more sprints and more sweat from the star-studded squad

Ten Hag will need more running, more sprints and more sweat from the star-studded squad

Fix the toxic dressing room

The atmosphere among United’s squad has bordered on toxic at times this season and Ten Hag must restore harmony.

A number of players are desperate to leave, having grown disillusioned sitting on the sidelines, and many should get their wish this summer.

Regardless of who United bring in or let go, Ten Hag must create a more positive dressing-room environment to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Overhaul failing squad

Like his predecessors, Ten Hag will have a say in recruitment and a veto over any player he doesn’t want.

It is vital that United bring in the right new signings as part of a long overdue overhaul of their squad.

The Ajax system Ten Hag will leave behind is admired the world over as an example of how to build a club.

United are a club in disarray and need a fresh start with a manager that is allowed to rebuild

United are a club in disarray and need a fresh start with a manager that is allowed to rebuild

United’s squad, on the other hand, is a Frankenstein’s monster put together by five different managers which lacks any clear identity.

Players have been hoarded and kept on lucrative contracts that make it difficult to get rid of them, resulting in a bloated squad and a club in stagnation.

United need to get rid of the dead wood and rebuild, and Ten Hag will play a key part in that process in conjunction with football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher.

Harness potential

The 52-year-old built a reputation for nurturing a vibrant young side at Ajax, and United are hoping he can have a similar effect at Old Trafford.

Like Pep Guardiola — whom he worked with at Bayern Munich — Ten Hag has an ability to improve players and that hasn’t happened nearly enough at United in recent years.

Ten Hag will be asked to improve players like Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Ten Hag will be asked to improve players like Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Marcus Rashford is a prime example of a player struggling to realise his potential, and Harry Maguire, Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are the latest new signings to make big-money moves and then go backwards. 

United have never worked out how to get the best from Paul Pogba.

Jadon Sancho has recovered after a poor start, Fred is winning over his critics and Anthony Elanga has been a rare success for United this season, but too many of their team-mates are playing within themselves. 

Get the team running

Ten Hag’s high-pressing, attack-minded game is similar to Pep Guardiola’s but requires a tremendous work-rate from his players.

Rangnick tried it but the tactic ran out of steam before half-time of his first game against Crystal Palace, and he bemoaned a lack of aggression in last weekend’s defeat at Everton.

Ten Hag needs more running, more sprints and more sweat from United if they are going to have any chance of closing the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool.



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