In the space of six months, Erik ten Hag has transformed a club that has been struggling since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. By setting up new rules, greater standards and higher expectations, the Dutch technician manages step by step to reinstall the club at the top, where it comes from, where it needs to be. . A statement all the more true after his success against rival Manchester City (2-1) this Saturday.
Erik ten Hag’s life in Manchester has not always been as good as it was on this Saturday in January, after this great victory against neighbors City. You only have to go back to August 14, 2022 to remember it. After a humiliation suffered the day before in Brentford (4-0), Manchester United players arrive at Carrington, the training center. A day off had originally been scheduled, but the team are in last place in the Premier League and the situation is serious. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to run 13.8 kilometres, the difference between the distance traveled by the Bees (109.4 km) from that covered by the Red Devils (95.6 km). An idea that emanates from Erik ten Hag, the Manchester United coach, landed during the past season from Ajax Amsterdam, but which alone symbolizes the change of culture that he wishes to put in place.
“In forty years of discussions with him, never once have I been right in the end. And I don’t remember ever hearing him say “I’m wrong”. » Leon ten Voorde, his childhood friend
CRxit and salary cap
In addition to the difficulties on the pitch, the Dutch coach then saw a disturbed start to the season, outside the lawns, by the desire to leave Cristiano Ronaldo, the club’s top scorer last season. Not easy for the start of his mandate, launched in April 2022. And when the Portuguese legend does not find a way out in Europe and the summer transfer window sounds the death knell, he finds himself confined among the substitutes. CR7 does not wish to comply with the tactical demands of pressing and working without the ball of the new coach. Despite the criticisms of a good number of people, who defend that we cannot put such a player on the bench, Ten Hag holds his course. Not surprising when you know his character. “In forty years of discussions with him, never once have I been right in the end.revealed Leon ten Voorde, a childhood friend of the Dutchman, in SoFoot. And I don’t remember ever hearing him say “I’m wrong”. » Given the performance of his players, who are improving in the absence of CR7, it is difficult to prove him wrong in his management of the situation.
He got Vincent Lagaf back!
Following the departure of the Portuguese star, management implemented a new law at the club: the “Ronaldo rule”. Stipulating that no player’s salary will exceed £200,000 a week, this rule is named after the ex-number 7 of the Red Devils, he who received, until his departure, £515,000 weekly. By this salary cap, the leaders wish to destroy jealousies between players and prevent huge expenses. Second highest earner in the Championship at £375,000 a week, goalkeeper David de Gea is directly affected by the move. His lease ending at the end of the season, the club would have sent him a contract extension offer in line with this new salary limit.
A sporting direction to follow
For his first transfer window at the Mancunian club, Ten Hag has not been idle. Although he failed to win over his former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, long courted this summer, the 52-year-old has brought in some familiar faces from his previous club: the South Americans Lisandro Martinez and Antony. Associated in central defense alongside Raphaël Varane, Martínez quickly convinced and silenced the skeptics. Their hinge looks like the club’s best pair since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić and responds to a real blight of the Mancunian team in recent years, due to disappointing purchases in this position such as the most expensive defender in history, Harry Maguire, or Swedish international Victor Lindelöf. Tyrell Malacia, another Eredivisie national, was recruited from Feyenoord, as well as Christian Eriksen, also from the Amsterdam club.
“The club have bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who haven’t been good enough. Most signings have been average and at Manchester United average is not good enough. » Erik ten Hag in Voetbal International
The real coup took place at the end of August, following the team’s poor start to the league (two defeats in as many games, one goal scored, six conceded), with the arrival of one of the best defensive midfielders of his generation: Casemiro. A very high-level player, five-time Champions League winner, who perfectly matched Ten Hag’s expectations. There too, he filled a glaring lack: the team had been orphaned by a real number 6, since the decline of Nemanja Matić’s diet, and his replacement had never been sought or found. “To get this change of culture in the locker room, you need personalitiesaffirmed Ten Hag in the columns of the Voetbal International. That’s why buying Casemiro was so important. He can speed up the process because he knows what it takes to win titles. » A recruitment that has so far borne fruit, far from the disappointments of the past. “The club have bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who have not been good enoughtackled the Dutchman, still in VII. Most signings have been average, and at Manchester United, average isn’t good enough. » A strong statement worthy of renewed expectations. Symbol of a greater requirement under the reign of the Dutchman, Diogo Dalot, one of the great progressions of this season, testifies to this change on the Manchester United site: “Since my arrival, I knew that I had to be at my best level to play as Erik ten Hag wants. »
The Dutch coach has established zero tolerance for delays, even if it means depriving himself of his best player of the moment, Marcus Rashford. Arrived several minutes after the start of a team meeting, the England international was immediately punished for having left the starting lineup for the match against Wolverhampton. But the Caillou de Haaksbergen does not always stick to its positions. in trouble with the wolvesthe technician enters his number 10 which will end up giving victory to the Red Devils late in the game (1-0). In addition to being adamant about punctuality, Ten Hag banned personal chefs. On match days, the players eat the meals prepared by the club. It has also banned alcohol on match weeks, revisited the menu with more fish and vegetables, and players’ body mass index is checked monthly.
Even the balloons march in step.
For the past few days, the former Twente player has taken charge of the club’s U23 team, in order to facilitate the access of young players to the first team. From his position as supervisor, he is the one who decides on the positions and playing times of the young people, while leaving the daily management to Neil Wood, just to be in direct contact with the Mancunian pool. A practice he had already used during his time at Ajax Amsterdam. “For me, the cooperation between all the different departments is crucial to get the right culture in a club.analyzes Ten Hag in the columns of the DailyMirror. As at Ajax, when I arrived at Manchester United, the reserve team was isolated. I immediately changed that. » All of these changes ended up paying off on the ground. In just 27 games, Ten Hag became the fastest manager in club history to reach 20 wins. While Manchester United had been in search of their former glory for several years, Erik ten Hag managed to recreate a stronger institution and breathe new life into a club that was slowly dying. “Changing the culture of the club was the most important thing when I arrived” , he claimed recently. It is now done. The current Premier League third is still in contention in four different competitions. Well launched on the road to success, Manchester United no longer runs to compensate for the distances not covered in matches, but well after the trophies.
By Alexander Ross