Erik ten Hag: "I had choices to work at a different club, with a better foundation. But I chose Manchester United."
Ten Hag will not be travelling to Curucao as part of Ajax's post-season trip in order to get started at Old Trafford

With conflicting reports circulating over the weekend when new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag will arrive in Manchester, Ajax’s latest league title triumphing coach spoke to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf’s Mike Verweij.

Ten Hag spoke about his time in Amsterdam managing Ajax, the forthcoming Alfred Schreuder, and the challenge ahead at Old Trafford

Arise King Erik

Last Sunday, David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror reported that Ten Hag had terminated his contract at the Johan Cruijff Arena six weeks early in order to prepare for the 2022/23 season.

Speaking to Verweij, the 52-year-old did confirm: “From the 16th of May, I am the new manager of Manchester United.” 

He continued: “A lot has to happen in preparation for the new season, such as the implementation of the staff members and the squad for next season. I will make my mark on both, and I want it to be done extremely carefully.”

This comes while United are undergoing a thorough restructure at the top of the board, with former executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, chief negotiator Matt Judge, chief scouts Marcel Bout and Jim Lawlor and chief strategy officer Hemen Tseayo all leaving the club since Richard Arnold’s appointment as CEO.

Closer to the incoming new manager, Ten Hag’s long term assistant Mitchell van der Gaag is set to join as part of the Dutchman’s coaching staff, with former United assistant Steve McClaren also due to return to the club.

Ten Hag worked under McClaren at FC Twente.

The squad in question

A lot has been said of the current group of Manchester United players over the course of the season, seemingly as large parts of the squad have downed tools under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, player power has been heavily significant in every manager’s time in the hotseat at Old Trafford, but Ten Hag is keen to stamp this out.

He said: “I am capable of looking every player straight in the eyes, I am 100 percent certain of that. I make all my choices in good conscience. The team stands above everything else. I choose the players that I believe give us the most chances of winning.”

Ten Hag did reveal though, that some United players have already been in touch.

“I have received a few WhatsApp messages from some of the [Manchester United] players [saying]: ‘Welcome to the club.’” 

Ten Hag also spoke of how much he is looking forward to working with top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Ronaldo is a giant, because of everything he has shown so far and because of how ambitious he is. I want to keep him at Manchester United, of course. He has been very important for this club and can produce great stats.”

Ronaldo has netted nine of the Reds’ last 12 goals in the league, including hat-tricks against Spurs and Norwich, showing his importance even at 37 years of age.

Ten Hag is also fully understanding of the size of the job he is taking on. 

Ex-Manchester United players are often vocal within the media, scrutinising only certain people at the club.

When asked on the opinions of players such as Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville, Ten Hag replied: “This has influence. But it can’t influence our dressing room. Maybe the criticism is bigger over there because the Premier League is much bigger. Fortunately, I have a lot of baggage to cope with this.”

Before the innovative coach had been officially announced to spearhead United’s new project, an offer at RB Leipzig had been reported within the media.

Though he didn’t mention any clubs, Ten Hag did say: “I had choices to work at a different club than Manchester United, with a better foundation. But I chose Manchester United. Things have to get addressed there and that is a challenge. The club and I are on the same wavelength about how I want to do this.”

In previous years, recruitment and planning has been quite non-existent at the club, and it’s something United must improve on if they are to be successful under Ten Hag.

Two players who Ten Hag has worked with at Ajax are Jurrien Timber and Brazilian winger Antony

On potentially bringing them to Old Trafford, he said: “I think all top clubs have Timber in their sight. If Antony would go, it would be a blow for Ajax because in their current squad there is nobody to replace him.”

Looking back on when we first met

Ten Hag was appointed as head coach of Ajax in December 2017, replacing fellow Dutchman Marcel Keizer. 

On his time at Ajax, Ten Hag said: “It couldn’t have gone better. Maybe if I had won the Champions League or Europa League. But it’s not realistic to win all possible trophies. Ajax is now the most dominant club in the country again. I can be satisfied about that.”

In his four-and-a-half years in the Dutch capital, Ten Hag won six major titles, ending a run of four years without the Eredivisie for the five-time UEFA Champions League winners.

Earlier this year, Ajax director of football Marc Overmars left the club due to an issue involving a female colleague. 

Ten Hag, however, did credit the former Arsenal and Barcelona winger for his work.

“This league title is also Marc Overmars’ league title. We created this squad together. I texted this to Marc too. It is a romantic thought to return to Ajax together one day. We have been very successful together. It is hard to say if it will happen, but it could happen.”

Ten Hag’s successor at Ajax is his former assistant during the 2018/19 season and Club Bruges boss Alfred Schreuder. 

On the 49-year-old’s arrival, Ten Hag said: “Soon we will have a meeting. He wants to talk to me in terms of like a handover. We started at Ajax together. He knows the changes the club went through. We strengthened the term ‘dominant football’.”