Inside Ten Hag's first day
Just 18 hours after the conclusion of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, a new era was ushered in at Old Trafford.
After posing for pictures both inside and outside the ground and meeting members of staff at the Megastore and in our offices, Erik ten Hag entered the press room at Old Trafford shortly after midday, wearing a light beige summer suit, similar to the one he sported while on a watching brief at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
Today it was down to business as the 52-year-old faced local, national and international journalists on his first day as United boss.
First, the pleasantries – the former Ajax manager gave a warm, hearty welcome to all those who had travelled to speak to him, shaking hands and introducing himself to everyone in the front two rows in turn.
“Hello, I’m Erik,” he politely said to each, before taking his seat and facing the cameras.
Part 1: Ten Hag’s first interview as boss
Ten Hag exclusive | Watch the first half of our big interview with Erik, discussing his exciting arrival at United…
Much has been made in recent weeks and months about Ten Hag’s desire to improve his English skills, but whether that’s been something he’s been working on recently is something only he could tell us.
To my ear, there was little to misunderstand as he was crystal clear in a brief opening statement where he thanked the club and already threw the focus forwards and on to the new term.
“Today I am happy to meet all. But I am really excited to be here. It was a really warm welcome in this club,” he said.
“I am looking forward to working at this club and I am looking forward to co-operating with you all. It gives me energy, I am looking forward to the new season, and today I feel quite well, I feel welcome, it is my home, and I want to achieve success.”
After a difficult season for all concerned at United, much of the focus was inevitably on Erik’s assessment of the current situation and what he feels is the right way forward for the club as we seek to catch up to our rivals, both at home and abroad.
Understandably, Ten Hag was guarded in terms of specifics, but there was plenty of talk about ‘process’, ‘projects’, ‘strategy’ and ‘analysis’, with the hard work starting now at the club ahead of the players returning at the end of June and the subsequent pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.
With Manchester City and Liverpool finishing 35 and 34 points ahead of us in the table this season, respectively, and Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal also higher up, Erik had to field questions about our short-term aspirations, and whether he feels we can bridge the gap next season.
While there has to be a sense of realism about the current situation, ambition and excitement for the challenge ahead is something supporters are always keen to hear when a new manager is introduced and, of course, Erik knows from his time with Ajax and Bayern Munich that whenever big clubs like United slip up, it’ll be headline news.
“We want to win, we want to win every game so we cope from game to game and then we will see,” he said, before turning his attention to bringing City and Liverpool’s spell of dominance to an end.
“I admire them both. They play, in this moment, really fantastic football – both Liverpool and Manchester City – but you will always see that an era can come to an end.
“I am looking forward to battling with them and I am sure all the other clubs in the Premier League will want to do that.”
First pics of Ten Hag at Old TraffordGallery
Must-see | Exclusive images of Erik's first day at Old Trafford...
Erik is yet to meet with the United players, and revealed he won’t do until they return from their summer breaks, and thus he was reluctant to be drawn on the issues that many newspaper columns will be dominated by over the next three months – transfers, both in and out.
There was a cheeky moment which encouraged a few laughs as he replied to a journalist’s question about Cristiano Ronaldo (“What can he offer?” “Goals!”), while compliments were given to Harry Maguire and Donny van de Beek, but it seems that he – and the squad – will have time to reflect over the coming month or so.
As far as you can judge, sitting five rows away from someone in a room for 18 minutes, Erik is a highly determined and driven individual who is keen to roll his sleeves up and immediately get to work on what is without doubt one of the most scrutinised jobs in the country.
His attention to detail is impressive too, and he exchanged handshakes and greetings with my club colleagues in the staff canteen after the press conference.
This is something a busy and in-demand man like him doesn't have to do, but which he insisted on. It will leave an impression in the weeks and months ahead.
Love Erik ten Hag making sure he said hello to every single person in the United staff canteen today! What a guy 🤝#MUFC | 📍— Maddy (@maddyoffline) May 23, 2022
Today's been an exciting day for Manchester United, but the time for talking, for the Ajax analysis, for long reads on tactics and for opinion pieces regarding personality and background is now over.
Erik ten Hag is officially our manager – he’s only the 29th person in history able to say that – and I hope today’s press conference, in combination with his exclusive interview with the club, have whetted your appetite and got you excited to see how he tackles the role.
I know I just can’t wait for 2022/23, and that feels an incredible thing to say just a day on from the culmination of such a disappointing campaign.
Bring it on.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.