'Teamwork is the base that Ten Hag builds on'

Tuesday 10 May 2022 07:00

Incoming Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will immediately look to cultivate unity within the Reds’ ranks, according to compatriot Raimond van der Gouw.

After a difficult campaign at Old Trafford, and with squad changes likely to punctuate the coming weeks, Ten Hag will depart Ajax later this month and swiftly undertake a job which requires remedial work first before restoration can begin. 

Former United goalkeeper van der Gouw – who, like Ten Hag, hails from Oldenzaal in eastern Holland – believes that the Reds’ new appointment will look to swiftly make fundamental changes so that he can build .  

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes for Erik ten Hag at United,” van der Gouw told ManUtd.com. “He has made small steps all along the way in his career and everywhere he has gone it has taken a little bit of time to implement what he wanted to do before people could see it working, but it has worked. At Ajax he has done a fantastic job, winning prizes, playing very attractive football and he has become a better manager along the way.
Former United keeper van der Gouw is excited about Ten Hag taking charge at Old Trafford.
“But it’s very important that everyone is patient and he is given the time to make the changes that are needed. Like Gary Neville has already said, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola needed time to get where they are now in English football. Chelsea didn’t win everything as soon as Roman Abramovich bought the club. We have also seen in the past many times that success takes time.

“Of course United want to win trophies, but the most important starting point you can have is a team performance where the players enjoy their football. That is one aspect that I think Erik will see as key: you need a team on the pitch, not 11 players. You need a team who wants to work for each other and who all enjoy playing football together. When you have that, you have to look further, but that is the base that I’m sure he will look to build.”

Van der Gouw, who is currently PSV Eindhoven’s goalkeeping coach, has seen the work done by Ten Hag over the last four-and-a-half seasons at Ajax.

The Amsterdammers could win the Eredivisie title on Wednesday, having dazzled Europe with their free-flowing performances domestically and continentally. Should United’s new manager look to imprint that playing style at Old Trafford, it will once again hinge on the groundwork done over the coming weeks.

“If you work with Ajax, you have to score a lot of goals and play attractive football because that’s what the fans expect and that’s traditional,” says van der Gouw. “That means dominating, playing in the opponents’ half, and if you do that then you will get a lot of chances and score a lot of goals. They have a strong defensive record as well because, as Johan Cruyff always said, if you have the ball, then the opponent can’t score. Ajax have the ball most of the time, so they don’t need to be too afraid of the opponent scoring. When you’re dominant like them, you play with a lot of space behind you, so there’s always a chance that the opponent can have a counter-attack, but that’s just something that you have to be aware of. 

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“If Ten Hag wants United to play the way he played at Ajax, the team has to be working together. The whole team will defend together and put pressure on the ball all over the pitch. If they do that, then it means, for example, that the goalkeeper will be able to come out further and work in more space behind the back four. If there’s no pressure on the ball, the goalkeeper cannot do that because there’s always the threat of the lob, especially in England.

“I remember my first game with United, I saw David Beckham score from the halfway line over Neil Sullivan at Wimbledon! You need a team performance, and if you do that then it’s easier for the goalkeeper. You attack together and defend together. The goalkeeper has to read the game and play with the space behind the defenders, and you need the team-mates to pressure the ball. If they work together like that, then they can dominate games.”

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Any incoming manager requires time to imprint his approach on his new players, and van der Gouw is mindful that Ten Hag is entering Old Trafford on the back of an extremely difficult season. However, he is upbeat about the appointment and feels that his compatriot will give his all to spark an upturn in fortunes.
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“Ten Hag is really passionate about football,” he says. “He wants to know everything about football. His life is football, football, football. United are getting a manager who really believes and wants to do everything to get the right performance for the players and for the club and I think that’s a very good talent. He will need time, but I think it will be very interesting and exciting to watch.”

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