Steve McClaren believes that new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag shares the same qualities as the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was widely reported on Tuesday that Ten Hag has agreed a deal in principle with United to become the club’s next manager and will join up with the Red Devils in the summer on a four-year deal.
United identified the Ajax boss as their No.1 choice to replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick last month and, unsurprisingly, debate has already started on what the 52-year-old will bring to Old Trafford and whether he is the right man to take on what some have described as the biggest and toughest job in world football.
One person who definitely thinks Ten Hag is up for the task is McClaren, who worked with the Dutchman while managing Eredivisie side Twente in the 2008/09 season.
‘We were starting pre-season training the day after I was appointed,’ McClaren told The Athletic.
‘He brought out this folder, and there were six weeks worth of pre-season training planned in there. Every minute of every day was laid out, from drinks sessions to warming down, to individual work. It was so detailed. I’d not seen anything like it before, and I’ve not seen anything like it since.
‘He would prepare meticulous game plans about the opposition. How we were going to press, how we were going to build up. I thought I knew football before, but going there and experiencing that… I knew nothing about football.’
A two-time Eredivisie winner, Ten Hag gained notoriety for taking Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, beating Real Madrid and Juventus along the way, but the United job will be a whole new challenge.
The club have won just three major trophies since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, and Ten Hag will have the unenviable task of restoring the glory days to Old Trafford, something none of Ferguson’s successors, namely David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick, were able to do.
‘He [Ten Hag] could see things in the game that nobody else could see, myself included,’ the former Middlesbrough, Derby County and England manager added.
‘I have to sit up in the stands to see the patterns of a game, but he could stand on the touchline [and see them]. He always knew the answer to everything, how to change shape, change positions.
‘His adjustments in the games — obviously I had worked with Sir Alex, and I used to think that some of his subs and changes were strange, but they always worked. Erik is the same in that respect.’
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