Erik ten Hag’s decision to take up the role of Manchester United manager is not a decision without risk. The big name ‘Red Devils’ is not only a burden, but all eyes are waiting to see how far this Dutch coach can succeed in rebuilding the glory of the Manchester club.
The shoe size that seems to have been left by Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is indeed immeasurable. Famous coaches, such as Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho were not enough to be able to use it. They finally let go of their positions in the middle of the road.
Ten Hag came to Old Trafford with a success story to build Ajax. Like the ‘Red Devils’, Ajax also has a great record of achievement. Ten Hag at least succeeded in building a young Ajax whose achievements were not inferior to their seniors.
Now when he is trusted to lead the ‘Red Devils’, Ten Hag also relies on the players he has raised. Therefore, he persuaded his old foster children to rejoin and build the ‘Red Devil’.
There are three players that Ten Hag hopes to help him restore Manchester United to glory. He invited Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong to come with him to move to Old Trafford. Ten Hag is willing to spend up to 85 million euros to get his flagship defensive midfielder.
The other two players he was eyeing were center-back Lisandro Martinez and young Brazilian striker Antony. Ten Hag fought hard to get them although it was not easy because Ajax objected to releasing their young star.
Luckily, there was one student who had joined Manchester United first, namely Donny van de Beek. He is an attacking midfielder who visionary, but rarely won the trust of coaches Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick. Until the middle of last season Van de Beek was loaned to Everton.
The Glazer Family’s choice to ask Ten Hag to take charge of Manchester United was because he hoped the new coach could reorganize his club. It’s like the ‘Red Devil’ must beoverhauled because it has been a decade of not being able to lift the Premier League Cup.
Ten Hag is known as a painstaking coach to build players and teams. He has proven when dealing with Ajax which must be built from new. Ajax returned to glory even though it was made up of young players.
Three decades ago Alex Ferguson did the same at Manchester United. He formed the young players who dropped out of Manchester United Academy into pillars of the strength of the ‘Red Devils’. Despite being the laughing stock of commentators like Alan Hansen, Sir Alex was able to turn the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt into a rising star who dominated English football for two decades.
Ten Hag is now doing exactly what Alex Ferguson used to do. He immediately fixed the technique of individual players and team play. Once the competition is over, there is almost no rest time, all he does is clean up.
It is a portrait of the strengths and weaknesses that exist in each player and team. He tried to communicate with his care players. He injected the confidence and pattern of play that he hopes the ‘Red Devils’ will display in the coming season.
It was there that Ten Hag saw the importance of Frenkie de Jong’s role. During three seasons playing for Ajax, the 25-year-old played 12 times as center back, 50 times as a defensive midfielder, and 12 times as an attacking midfielder. When July 2019 moved to Barcelona, nine times he was played as center back36 times as a defensive midfielder, and 93 as a midfielder.
With his qualities as a versatile player, Ten Hag hopes that De Jong can become an anchor for the ‘Red Devils’. De Jong is expected to cover Manchester United’s weakness in the heart of the defense. Both Harry Maguire and Víctor Lindelof as center back too easy for opposing players to penetrate.
Together with Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes, De Jong will be able to make the ‘Red Devils’ midfield more solid. The broad vision of the game will make Ten Hag’s team better able to maintain the balance of the game.
Especially if Antony can be brought to Old Trafford. The talented young player from Brazil will be able to become a compact duet with veteran star Cristiano Ronaldo. Ten Hag doesn’t even have to worry about finding a replacement for the Portugal captain if he needs a break.
Ten Hag prepared three scenarios to build a new ‘Red Devil’. If he manages to bring in three of his team from Ajax and a left-back from Feyenoord Tyrell Malacia, he will be free to play the 4-3-3 pattern that is his mainstay. Especially if the veteran Danish player Christian Eriksen is now a football player free agent also want to join.
He will entrust the four positions behind him to Diogo Dalot, Martinez, Maguire and Malacia. The three midfielders will be filled with De Jong, McTominay and Fernandes. With the support of a solid midfielder, the trio of Eriksen, Ronaldo, and Antony will be more focused on breaking down the opponent’s defense.
If Ajax does not want to let Martinez and Antony go, Ten Hag will rely on a 4-3-1-2 pattern of play. The four positions behind can be filled by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Maguire and Malacia. The three defensive midfielders will be filled with McTominay, De Jong and Fred. Fernandes will play as second striker behind the duo Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford.
Another option that Ten Hag prepared was to play with a 4-1-4-1 pattern. De Jong became a mainstay to become a defensive midfielder. He will be in charge of being the first player in front of a back four that can be filled in by Dalot, Varane, Maguire and Luke Shaw.
Four attacking midfielders who helped Fernandes as false nine entrusted to Rashford, Van de Beek, Fred, and Jadon Sancho. Rashford and Sancho will play as wing midfielders supplying the ball for Fernandes.
Ten Hag is now trying to continue to build mutual understanding and understanding to all players about the pattern of play he wants. He realized that the remaining six weeks were too short to allow all players to understand their roles and responsibilities.
However, he hopes that all players will get used to it and never get tired of practicing. He firmly instilled that only with constant practice would perfection be achieved. Practice makes perfectthat’s the term.
Even though it looks like something elementary, constant practice is something that needs to be done. Josep Guardiola’s success in building Manchester City was achieved through basic training and pattern training which he always repeated throughout training.
Clubs that forget to build the foundation of football, let alone not followed by good management, could be on the verge of collapse. French club Bordeaux are on the verge of bankruptcy due to forgetting to manage professionally.
The condition of the club that once gave birth to a football star in the class of Zinedine Zidane is very concerning. In fact, in the hands of former French team captain Laurent Blanc, Bordeaux won Ligue 1 in 2009. Within 12 years they had slumped to the Third Division and are now waiting for a verdict to be declared bankrupt. A valuable bitter lesson.