The Ajax manager has agreed to become Manchester United’s new manager, effective at the start of the 2022-23 season. We’ve taken a look at what he’ll be seeking to do in his first season in charge.
Erik ten Hag has agreed to take over as manager of Manchester United from the start of the 2022-23 season, and the Dutchman will have no doubts about the magnitude of the challenge before of him.
Taking over at Old Trafford will put the Ajax manager into the midst of a developing drama, with the club having spiraled somewhat out of control through years of mismanagement and poor recruitment.
Ten Hag has the ability to change all of that with his progressive, modern attitude, and having been chosen over Mauricio Pochettino for the post, he will no doubt already have an idea of what he wants to do.
The 52-year-old manager is said to have had a ‘five-year plan’ for the club, which he unveiled during his ultimately successful round of interviews with United executives John Murtough and Darren Fletcher. But what will that plan entail for a club desperate for success look like in the coming months?
Look at what he hopes to do in the next few months.
YEAR ONE: Develop a specific style of play.
Because they have spent years under the management of coaches who use outdated methods or who should never have been hired in the first place, United have ended up with a mishmash of different styles, as well as players who are suited to those styles, and as a result, they are not united to a collective approach to the game.
Such behavior is just unacceptable for a club attempting to attain success at the highest level of the game.
No one is expecting Ten Hag to come in and immediately challenge the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool for major prizes, but the Dutchman must at the very least appear to have a strategy for how he intends to get there from the get-go.
There must be a clear vision, as well as the establishment of a distinct Manchester United style of play, something that has been absent for far too long.
YEAR TWO: Get a core of players who are coming along for the ride
Marcus Rashford’s current United deal runs out in 2023 ( Image: REUTERS)
Ten Hag will obviously start this process in his first year, and by the beginning of his second season he should have no doubt over who he wants in his side going forward.
As it stands United will see the contracts of Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Fred, David de Gea, Diogo Dalot and Nemanja Matic all expire in 2023, and while some of those will obviously sign new deals by then, and others will be willingly let go, there is no doubt that the bulk of the group Ten Hag wants should be complete by then, with the style of play to the fore.
The Dutchman knows he has a big job on his hands to get United into the shape he wants, and some of these players will face a fight to be included.
YEAR THREE: Win something
Ten Hag needs to show that he can bring trophies to United ( Image: REUTERS)
Fans love seeing progress and the improvement of players, but what they really crave is success, and every manager who comes to United must know that.
Ten Hag is likely to get the first two seasons as a grace period if his team show signs that progress is being made, but in the end those same supporters will demand that silverware be brought into the club as a clear sign that they are back among the elite.
Jurgen Klopp was often pilloried for failing to bring a trophy to Liverpool in his first few seasons, but after taking over during the 2015-16 campaign it was at the end of his third full season that he brought the Champions League to the club.
The new United boss might not have to win anything quite that substantial, but something will be needed.
YEAR FOUR: Live comfortably with the elite
It isn’t clear how Manchester City and Liverpool will look by the 2025-26 season, but as it stands neither one of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp will be in situ.
Again, that could all change, but while the success of those two clubs could well depend on just who has ended up replacing those two managerial titans, if Ten Hag is still at United then Year Four is when he’ll need to get his side looking comfortable as they rub shoulders with those elite sides of recent years.
United are used to that of course, but the inertia which has gripped them over much of the past decade simply can’t be there by summer 2026 if the Dutchman is to be deemed to have done a good job.
YEAR FIVE: Get back on the perch
Will Manchester United win the Premier League again before 2027? It’s certainly possible, and Ten Hag is going to have to be the man to make it happen if this is to be the right appointment.
The Dutchman will be tasked with restoring the Red Devils to the summit of the English game, and also making them a force in Europe once again, and the cutthroat reality is that is like to have to have done it by the end of his five-year plan in order to be considered a success.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously installed United upon a perch, and Ten Hag has to get United to clamber back onto one.