The Debate: How Ten Hag is managing the media

Tuesday 09 August 2022 08:53

In our latest episode of The Debate, two experienced journalists from the British press pack provide their unique perspectives on Erik ten Hag and how he is managing the media.

Paul Hirst of The Times and Laurie Whitwell from The Athletic are both tasked with covering United for their respective publications, and they were at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for our Premier League opener against Brighton & Hove Albion. 

As you know, the match didn’t go to plan. But during his post-match commitments, the boss spoke calmly and conveyed confidence in his long-term vision for the team.

While appearing on The Debate, which you can watch in full below, Hirst was asked by host Stewart Gardner how he found. Ten Hag on tour and specifically during Sunday’s post-match press conference.

“I have found him to be good and he has been great for us,” said Paul. “On tour, when we were in Melbourne, he did a sit-down with us, the British press who travelled over there, and it not always a given that, so it was a good thing for him to do and it was good for us to get a handle on what he wants, and it's good for the media relations as well. 

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“When he was away from the cameras, he was a bit more relaxed, I thought, and he was a bit more expressive, more detailed in his answers, and more confident with his English. So he is certainly trying to build that relationship with us and give that understanding of what he is trying to do. 

“Those post-match press conferences, I often think about if I was in that situation as a manager, you've been stood on that touchline, you've had 75,000 people here watching your opening game, you've had all this adrenaline and emotion running through you, and then you have got to calm yourself and not say something that might annoy the players, or come across badly to the fans. It must be quite a hard thing to do.”
Whitwell has covered all seven of Ten Hag’s matches so far and the journalist for The Athletic agrees the Dutchman is conveying a natural authority, notably while speaking a second language. 

“I just echo what Paul was saying,” says Laurie. “In his first press conference here, I was kind of thinking this could be awkward because his communication was very minimal in what he was saying, but I think he just wanted to stay in control of his language in that opening press conference. 

“Away in Melbourne, I thought he was much more expressive in what he was saying to us and, on Sunday, he probably gave us the most full answers we've ever heard from him. He was always in control of what he said, he didn't mis-speak at all, even though he is speaking in another language that isn't his mother tongue, and you get a sense from him that [he] has got authority.

“Clearly, he must be saying stuff behind closed doors that's different to what he gives us. But nonetheless, what he did say was still informative and conveyed where was coming from. I have been impressed by him and he has been the most encouraging sign from pre-season tour, both on the training pitches and in press conferences.”
Watch Ten Hag's press conference Video

Watch Ten Hag's press conference

Erik spoke to reporters at Old Trafford following Sunday's game...

Former United defender Wes Brown also appears in our latest episode of The Debate and he provided the players’ perspective on manager’s post-match press conference, admitting Sir Alex Ferguson would often criticise his team internally before defending them to the media. 

“There were times when we played terribly and then the manager would go in the press conference and he wouldn't say the same time that he said to us,” laughed Wes. “That is just a true story. He was telling you what had gone wrong but he doesn't put you on the spot in the press conference.”

Watch Ten Hag's next press conference on Friday, live in the United App, on and via MUTV.