Backroom appointments confirmed
Manchester United is delighted to announce the appointment of Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren as Erik ten Hag’s assistant coaches, as the new manager’s backroom team takes shape.
Van der Gaag and McClaren, who were in attendance at United's final game of the season at Crystal Palace, have enjoyed highly successful spells alongside Ten Hag, and both bring a wealth of European experience and hands-on coaching expertise to United.
Van der Gaag's appointment is subject to Governing Body Endorsement from the FA and a UK visa. He has spent the last year as Ten Hag’s assistant at Ajax, having previously enjoyed a two-year spell in charge of the Amsterdam club’s reserve side. His playing career included experience of British football, with two years in the Scottish top flight with Motherwell.
Beginning his career with PSV Eindhoven, the central defender also represented NEC, Sparta Rotterdam and Utrecht in his home country, as well as banking over 150 matches in Portugal in Maritimo. He hung up his boots in 2007 following a season in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr.
The 50-year-old's coaching career began back in Portugal with Maritimo and then Belenenses, whom he led back to the Primeira Liga by winning the Segunda Liga. After a short spell in Cyprus, he returned home to the Netherlands in 2015, where he worked with FC Eindhoven, Excelsior and NAC before joining Ajax in 2019.
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He left Old Trafford in 2001 to take on his first managerial role at Middlesbrough and proved to be a huge success on Teesside, securing the club’s first ever major honour – the 2004 League Cup – as well as leading them to the UEFA Cup final in 2006, and the club’s highest top-flight finish in 30 years. He left Boro following his appointment as the England national team manager in May 2006, a role he held until November 2007.
Next up for McClaren was a surprise move to Dutch football, when he was announced as manager of Eredivisie side Twente in June 2008. Eyebrows were initially raised at this career move, but it proved to be inspired. He guided Twente to a second-placed finish in his debut season as well as reaching the Dutch Cup final and the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup. And it was at Twente that McClaren began his association with Ten Hag. He appointed Ten Hag as his first assistant manager, and was immediately impressed by the young Dutchman.
“I thought I worked hard until I met Erik,” said McClaren recently. “His great strength lies not just in his attention to detail and organisation. He has a clear philosophy of how he wants to play football; the environment he wants to create.”
After a successful first season in the Netherlands for McClaren, glory was to soon follow. In 2009/10, the Yorkshireman led Twente to the first Eredivisie title in their history, pipping Ajax by just one point. This meant McClaren had become the first Englishman to win a top-flight title since Bobby Robson with Porto in 1996. His success in Holland attracted the attention of clubs across Europe, and he swapped Twente for Wolfsburg, becoming the first Englishman to manage in the Bundesliga.
A return to England with Nottingham Forest preceded another year in Twente, which was followed by periods of charge of Derby County, Newcastle United and Queen’s Park Rangers. He has been working with Wayne Rooney at Derby County as an advisor this season, but with Ten Hag installed in the Old Trafford dugout, McClaren’s deep knowledge of English football and his relationship with the new manager has prompted a return to United, 21 years after he left.
So, welcome to United, Mitchell… and welcome back, Steve!