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Erik Ten Hag: A Manager who Wins by Breaking the Mold

The Dutch Coach Arrived at Manchester United at the Beginning of this Season with the Aim of Returning Glory to the 'Red Devils' and, for now, he has had an Auspicious Start with an Attacking Soccer that has had the Luxury of Doing Without Cristiano Ronaldo and the Recently Signed Casemiro.

Erik Ten Hag

Photo: TW-TenHagMind

LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: Erik Ten Hag: un director técnico que gana rompiendo el molde

Erik Ten Hag's name doesn't ring a bell with many people. Not even for being the coach who, in 2019, at the head of Ajax in the Netherlands, ended Real Madrid's streak of three consecutive titles in the Champions League, eliminating them in the round of 16 with an aggregate of 5-3. In that same season, he took them -against all odds- to the semifinals of the highest club tournament.

The "purists" of soccer highlighted, at that time, the style of the Dutch strategist, with intense players to take the ball, attack quickly in a block, and show balance in all his lines. Thus, Ten Hag's Ajax won their group in the regular round, eliminated the tournament's top champion one phase later, and then Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus in the quarterfinals, to finally fall face to face with Tottenham in the semifinals, never being the favorite.

After debuting as a coach at a professional level in 2015 at the helm of Utrecht, Ten Hag had a glorious stage at Ajax, winning the title in the 2018-19, 2020-21, and 2021-22 campaigns and since this season, he leads his great professional opportunity at the helm of Manchester United, a team with which he has accumulated four wins in succession despite making very controversial decisions.

Four years to endorse...

The parties verbally agreed on a bond for the next four seasons, until June 2026, with the possibility of extending it for one more season. The technical director, trained as a strategist at Twente FC, went through the under 17 and under 19 categories until he was assistant to the senior team at that institution.

After that experience, he jumped to the Go Ahead Eagles of the Second Division of his country before taking charge of the second team of Bayern Munich, where he was for two years and conquered the Bavarian Regional League in 2013-2014.

In 2015, he arrived at Utrecht FC, a team with which he finished fifth and fourth respectively in the two harvests in which he was top man. In the general balance, the Dutchman accumulated 56 wins, 25 draws and 30 losses in 111 games. The moment that changed his life was recorded in December 2017 when Ajax called him up to replace Marcel Keizer.

Among his merits is promoting players, since he is responsible for the sporting growth of players such as Frenkie de Jong (current Barcelona player) and Matthijs de Ligt, who jumped from Ajax to Juventus and is currently a Bayern Munich player. Donny Van De Beek, was also under his command at Ajax and today converges with him again in the 'Red Devils' although with less impact than those already mentioned.

CR7 and Casemiro to the bench

Since his arrival at the 'Red Devils', Ten Hag was clear on the issue of Cristiano Ronaldo, prioritizing the team ahead of the top scorer in history. A few weeks later, he surprised by leaving Brazilian star midfielder Casemiro on the bench. The former Real Madrid was bought for 80 million euros.

In the case of the Portuguese star, he has only been a starter in one of the 'Red Devils' games after six dates and it was, coincidentally, in the worst defeat so far this season, 4-0 against Brentford as a visitor . His recurring complaints about his future, and not playing in the UEFA Champions League, are the main elements of discord that Ten Hag has had to deal with, as this goes against his policy of "there are no untouchable players".

As reported by Fútbol Red, what was published by the British newspaper The Sun, Ten Hag became "fed up with Cristiano Ronaldo's circus and therefore decided to warn him", especially in the days before the market closed. There were meetings between the two and just after them, the Portuguese has not been a starter again.

The situation with Casemiro, it seems, is different, because the Brazilian midfielder has arrived at an unusual moment and according to the Dutch coach, the former Real Madrid needs to adapt to the team's systems and to the physical and fast game that prevails in the Premier League, different from the soccer that is played in the Spanish League, more flexible and open. Time will tell, but the truth is that after three games, Casemiro has also started the games sitting on the bench.

The coach assured ESPN that while the Brazilian, -who was a star player at Real Madrid- picks up the pace, Scotsman Scott McTominay would be the starter because "he's also playing very well." The last reinforcement to arrive was the Brazilian attacker Antony, a key element in the Ajax led by Ten Hag, and who received the confidence to be a starter in the 11 from the first moment.

The Amazonian striker proved his worth with a goal in his first game against Arsenal and with it, Ten Hag silenced the criticism as all his highly criticized and unpopular moves are yielding positive results, including victories over high-level rivals such as Liverpool and Arsenal.

In his style of play he uses the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 systems, offering a lot of offensive volume on the wings. Everyone remembers how he took advantage of Serbian Dusan Tadic down the left lane, a veteran player who scored more than 10 goals and 15 assists in the best season of his already long career in 2021-22.

Is that what United needed?

Manchester United has not won a League title in England since the 2012-13 campaign, when the manager was Sir Alex Ferguson. It was, coincidentally, the last season of the Scottish strategist, and since then United has not returned to green laurels in the domestic league, nor in the Champions League.

The top winner of titles in England, has had to settle in these ten years with minor domestic titles such as the Community Shield in 2016, the FA Cup in 2015-16, the League Cup in 2016-17 and his greatest achievement in this period of time, it was the Europa League, which was accredited in 2017 under the command of Jose Mourinho.

The 'Devil Reds' have not been able to find a coach who will remain in the institution for a long time, despite the fact that they have tried everything in that regard. Since Ferguson's departure, the Scotsman David Moyes has passed through the club; Dutchman Louis Van Gaal; the aforementioned Portuguese Mourinho; the Norwegian and former idol of the club, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; the German Ralf Ragnick (today in a management position at the club); and now Ten Hag, who, like the aforementioned, has the opportunity to prove that he is the one.