Erik ten Hag appointment: why it shows a change in strategy at Man Utd and hints why Pochettino was overlooked

Erik ten Hag appointment: why it marks a first for Man Utd & shows a change in direction

After months of speculation and rumours, Manchester United’s new manager has been confirmed, with Erik ten Hag set to take charge at Old Trafford this summer.

The managerial saga has dragged on for months, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal, Ralf Rangnick’s temporary appointment and the subsequent reports of who would replace him, dominating the United news agenda for the majority of the 2021/22 season.

But now, at last, the Red Devils can look forward and begin to plan for the future with a clearer sense of who will be making decisions at the club.

Erik ten Hag has been confirmed as Manchester United’s next manager. Credit: Getty.

Few sporting institutions have been run as incompetently as United in the last decade, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013 marking an end an abrupt end to the good times in M16.

Since then, United’s search for their next managerial messiah has been calamitous. It began with ‘the chosen one’ as David Moyes was billed as the experienced Premier League coach ready to finally compete with the elite. That failed.

Then there was the appointment of ‘world-class’ Louis van Gaal, a man experienced working under the spotlight and bringing success to the world’s pre-eminent clubs. That failed.

Jose Mourinho, the banker, the guarantee of success and silverware, followed in 2016. This was a manager seen by many as the greatest coach in world football, someone who had a cheat sheet when it came to creating title-winning sides. That failed.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, Manchester United’s managerial appointments have struggled to make an impact. Credit: Getty.

After that, the fan-favourite, former goal machine was next in the door, someone who ‘got the club’ and understood that fabled ‘United DNA’. He’d already stumbled across a winning formula while in charge on an interim basis, so it would simply be a case of replicating that again. That failed.

Ralf Rangnick was next, the ‘godfather of gegenpress’ who would whip this lawless lot into shape and get them playing in an offensive, attractive style to appease supporters. That failed.

But ten Hag’s appointment represents a drastically different approach, one which has delivered success for other teams in the Premier League era.

A change in strategy

In many senses, recruiting ten Hag should be seen as a significant victory for United, further proof of their continued status in the global game.

Can Erik ten Hag stop United’s decline? Credit: Getty.

Ten Hag reportedly chose to take up the Red Devils’ offer above approaches from some of Europe’s top clubs, those likely to play in the Champions League next season, unlike United.

The current Ajax manager is widely considered to be one of the world’s most promising coaches, a manager at the cutting edge of the game’s latest philosophies and tactical innovations.

This is a coach who may not be among the world’s elite yet, but could be on the precipice of being deemed on a par with Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel et al. It’s for that reason, this is such a departure from the norm for United.

Ten Hag has no Premier League experience, hasn’t taken charge of a club with an extensive global fanbase and has no prior link with United or English football.

It’s perhaps for this reason Maurico Pochettino was overlooked for the role, and while appointing a manager who still has question marks surrounding certain aspects of his CV, a similar strategy has resulted in some of the Premier League’s greatest-ever sides.

Little was known of Arsene Wenger when he arrived at Arsenal in 1996 before he led the Gunners to three top-flight titles. Mourinho was the young up-and-comer who led Chelsea to consecutive league titles in the mid 2000s, while Klopp still had perceived flaws when he joined Liverpool nearly seven years ago.

Parallels can certainly be drawn from the aforementioned trio and the appointment of Ten Hag, but Wenger, Mourinho and Klopp won Premier League titles with clubs who backed their managers, incorporated their plan, and, ultimately, wanted to win trophies above all else.

There’s no guarantee ten Hag will experience the same at Old Trafford.