United's links with the Netherlands
Erik Ten Hag’s appointment as Manchester United’s new manager has continued the strong links between the club and the Netherlands.
Ten Hag, who will begin his role at Old Trafford this summer, follows compatriot Louis van Gaal into the United hot-seat, with van Gaal – also a multiple title winner with Ajax – having managed the Reds between 2014 and 2016.
There are currently two Dutchmen on United’s books, both of them out on loan with Donny van de Beek at Everton and Tahith Chong, who was born in Curacao but represented the Netherlands at Under-21 level, playing for Birmingham City until the end of the 2021/22 campaign.
The presence of the trio at the club prolongs a four-decade-long Oranje-Red relationship, which began when Arnold Muhren became the first man from the Netherlands to don the famous red shirt after moving from Ipswich Town in 1982, and scoring in the FA Cup final replay win over Brighton & Hove Albion a year later.
After the midfielder left for Ajax in 1985, it took over a decade for further Dutch representation, with Jordi Cruyff – son of legendary Holland winger Johan – and goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw both joining in the summer of 1996.
Since then, United have only gone one full season without boasting a Dutch player in the first-team ranks.
The pair were joined by Jaap Stam – a world-record defensive signing – for the Treble-winning season, with the rock-hard centre-back going on to win a further two Premier League titles before leaving for Lazio in 2001.
By then, Ruud van Nistelrooy had been signed from PSV Eindhoven and the centre-forward soon established himself as one of the club’s greatest-ever hitmen, scoring 150 goals in 219 games in five years until transferring to Real Madrid in 2006.
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar - Ajax's chief executive during Ten Hag's managerial stint - was another legendary Dutchman, winning a whole host of trophies with the Reds, but his retirement in 2011 meant United went through the whole 2011/12 campaign without anyone from the Netherlands making a first-team appearance.
The headline-grabbing arrival of Robin van Persie, plus the addition of young left-back Alexander Buttner soon changed that ahead of what is, to date, our most recent league-winning campaign, with RvP front and centre of Sir Alex Ferguson’s fitting farewell march to his 13th title.
Buttner was gone by the time Van Gaal sat in a United dugout for the first time, with the former Ajax manager then adding the versatile Daley Blind to our stable of players from his home country.
Memphis Depay, Tim Fosu-Mensah and van Persie himself would also make appearances for the Reds during van Gaal’s two-year stint at Old Trafford.
The departure of Blind in the summer of 2018, coupled with Fosu-Mensah’s loan to Fulham, meant the Reds began the 2018/19 season without a Dutchman in our ranks, but Chong was given his debut by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in January 2019.
Van de Beek, who established himself as one of Europe’s most exciting talents under Ten Hag in Amsterdam, then joined in September 2020 and he has so far made 50 appearances for the club, scoring two goals.