Erik ten Hag will not be backed with a lavish budget to rebuild Man Utd but will receive what the club regard as adequate funds to enhance a squad that the new manager believes he can vastly improve with his coaching.
United confirmed on Thursday that Ten Hag would leave Ajax at the end of the season to take over at Old Trafford. The Dutchman views the group he will inherit as having vastly underperformed this season and feels it contains four groups of players worth persevering with.
The first are those at the pinnacle of their careers, where Ten Hag places Bruno Fernandes and Raphaël Varane; then those entering that phase, in his opinion Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay; others on an upward trajectory, such as Jadon Sancho; and youngsters emerging from the academy for whom he sees a bright future, including Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho and James Garner.
Although funds for Ten Hag will not be limitless, in line with club policy and as a result of the pandemic, the departures of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard, who are among those due to leave in the summer, will allow him greater flexibility in the market.
Heading Ten Hag’s targets are expected to be a midfielder – West Ham’s Declan Rice is on the shortlist – although Donny van de Beek, with whom he worked with at Ajax and who is on loan at Everton, will be given a chance to revive his United career. A center-back and a center-forward will also be a priority.
Ten Hag’s appointment has had a mixed reception from the squad, with some players ambivalent and others underwhelmed as they wait to work with the 52-year-old. Van de Beek liked an Instagram post confirming the appointment and can be expected to give a positive assessment to his colleagues of him at United.
The club are close to confirming Ten Hag’s assistant will be Mitchell van der Gaag, who was the coach of Yong Ajax, the club’s reserves, for two years from 2019 while Ten Hag was in charge of the first team. The new manager is to assess those coaches already at United with regard to whom he may wish to retain. He wants Steve McClaren to become a member of his staff but this is yet to be decided.
Ten Hag has signed a contract to June 2025, with the option to extend for a further year. He has been in charge of Ajax for four years, winning the Dutch league and cup double in 2018-19 and 2020-21. His team lost the 2022 cup final to PSV last Sunday but are on course to secure another league title.
An agreement has been reached to pay Ten Hag’s €2m release clause and it is understood he was granted a key demand: to be allowed the final decision on transfers together with the club executive.
Ten Hag said: “It is a great honor to be appointed manager of Manchester United and I am hugely excited by the challenge ahead. I know the history of this great club and he passion of the fans, and I am absolutely determined to develop a team capable of delivering the success they deserve.
“It will be difficult to leave Ajax after these incredible years, and I can assure our fans of my complete commitment and focus on bringing this season to a successful conclusion before I move to Manchester United.”
United’s initial five-man shortlist also included the Spain coach Luis Enrique, Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui, Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel and Paris Saint-Germain’s Mauricio Pochettino but Ten Hag quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner. He will be the club’s first permanent manager since Ole Gunnar Solskjær left in NovemberRalf Rangnick having stepped in on an interim basis.
Ten Hag impressed in discussions led by John Murtough, United’s football director, and Darren Fletcher, the technical director. It is understood that Richard Arnold, the chief executive, engaged in the final stages of the process and there was unanimous agreement that Ten Hag was the outstanding candidate. Joel Glazer, the co-chairman, signed off their decision.
During interviews Ten Hag more than satisfied the club with his English, which had been regarded as a potential challenge.
United concluded that Ten Hag was the candidate most closely aligned with the club’s identity and strategy, and were impressed by his passion, energy and enthusiasm for the task of trying to restore the club to the top.
Murtough said: “In our conversations with Erik leading up to this appointment, we were deeply impressed with his long-term vision for returning Manchester United to the level we want to be competing at, and his drive and determination to achieve that.”
Murtough and the rest of the executive believe Ten Hag has the experience to handle a club of United’s stature after taking charge of more than 40 Champions League games (including qualifiers) with Ajax, notably reaching the 2019 semi-finals, and spending time at Bayern Munich, where I have coached the reserves from 2013 to 2015.