What's it like to interview Erik ten Hag?

Tuesday 24 May 2022 16:00

Erik ten Hag's first full interview as Manchester United manager has gone down a storm with fans – but what was it actually like to speak to the Dutchman?

Presenter Pien Meulensteen was the woman in the hot-seat for the much-awaited chat, which you can now listen to in full across ManUtd.com and the United App.
 
We caught up with Pien to find out about her first impressions of Erik, and how she thinks he will get on as United boss.
Part 1: Ten Hag’s first interview as boss Video

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…

“It was really exciting,” she told UTD Podcast host Sam Homewood. “I literally could have sat there for two hours and carried on talking to him, but he's obviously a busy man now, as the manager of Manchester United! But we had about half an hour, which was fantastic, and he was really generous with his time.
 
“I had not met Erik before, but he knows my family. He knows my dad and my brother, because my younger brother plays football in Holland, so he's played against Erik ten Hag's Ajax this season and in the past two seasons. So he was aware of my brother, so when we met we had a nice conversation about that. He was keeping an eye on him as well. 
 
“But yeah, it was the first time I've met him, and I have to say he was a very friendly man. It was obviously really nice that we were able to introduce each other in Dutch; we were able to speak to each other in Dutch.”
There's plenty to unpack from the in-depth conversation, but something that struck Meulensteen was Ten Hag's desire to talk about the team, as opposed to his own personality.
 
“I think that's one of the big takeaways that I got from him,” explains Pien. “Especially when I asked him that question about walking out in front of over 70,000 fans at Old Trafford for the first time, because that will be an experience. The atmosphere will be fantastic. The first game of the season at Old Trafford – who doesn't want that experience? 
 
“But it was really interesting, his answer. Because he sort of downplayed it a little bit.  He was like: we'll see what happens. From when I was having conversations with journalists when I was in Amsterdam, that was one of the big things that they said : it's never about him. He doesn't care for it to be about him. 
 
“He has the job and his job is to lead a football club and a football team and that job is at Manchester United, and that's what he will focus on. As we all get to know him more as Manchester United manager, I think we will be able to see his incredible focus.”
Part 2: Our big interview with Ten Hag Video

Part 2: Our big interview with Ten Hag

Ten Hag exclusive | Here's part two of Pien Meulensteen's sit-down with our new boss, Erik...

And when it came to Ten Hag's football philosophy, Meulensteen saw echoes of Sir Alex Ferguson's approach.
 
“When I was listening to him [talk about football] you sort of start listening to Sir Alex Ferguson again, because that was his way. You go for it every game. You're never scared. You attack every opponent, you play this attacking style. You want to win; your mentality is to win at all times. That is the way that he is. 
 
“There is no doubt that he will try to get his style of football in there. But I think the moral of his story is that it needs to be a team effort, and everyone at the club needs to chip in and help. It can't just be one person, because it never is in football. Football is a team sport. He knows that, and I think that's the message he was sort of trying to get across.”
Access All Areas: Ten Hag's tour Video

Access All Areas: Ten Hag's tour

Join Erik ten Hag as he goes backstage at the Theatre of Dreams and meets United staff and fans on his first visit...

The other message that Pien sensed was one directed towards the players, ahead of their return for pre-season ahead of the 2022/23 season.
 
“When we asked him how important it is that the players impress him over the summer,” she remembered, “I think that was a message to the players: yes, they absolutely have to impress him over the summer. 
 
“He may have followed Manchester United for the past couple of seasons, but he's now got a different eye to it. Ever since he was announced as United manager, he will have been watching those players. He will have been taking each player in and analysing them tactically, watching every single player in real detail. 
 
“So when they do join up for pre-season, because the date is set for that, and they go on their big tour, he'll get to know the players and their personalities. But I think it's a big summer for the players. It's important that they work as hard as possible to impress Erik ten Hag. I'm sure he has his own players in mind that he's already looking forward to working with.”
Ten Hag’s press conference unveiling Video

Ten Hag’s press conference unveiling

Press conference | Watch all of Erik’s fascinating unveiling as United manager at the Theatre of Dreams…

Ultimately, like many of us, Pien simply cannot wait to see her compatriot get started. Despite a disappointing 2021/22 season, Ten Hag's start has re-energised the club and given fans a much-neeeded burst of new optimism.
 
“I can't wait!” she laughed. “I actually can't believe that it's the end of the season already, because you just want it [the Ten Hag era] to happen. 
 
“Now he's been unveiled and he's started talking about what he wants to do, it's like: come on, let's get the pre-season going! Let's see what he's going to do. 
 
“It's really exciting and, fingers crossed, it's going to be a good season. I'm sure it will be.”

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