The evolution of Ten Hag
Signed, sealed, delivered: Erik ten Hag is taking charge at Old Trafford.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, the 52-year-old Dutchman will become manager of Manchester United as the Reds look towards a bright future under the direction of one of the most exciting coaches in the game.
The evolution in Ten Hag’s reputation has been meticulous, mirroring a rise which has been methodical rather than meteoric. A sharp, ball-playing central defender in his playing days, Erik spent the majority of his career spread across three stints with FC Twente, with whom he won the KNVB Cup in 2001.
After hanging up his boots, a steady ascent up the coaching ladder began, inevitably within the familiar ranks at Twente. When former Reds no.2 Steve McClaren was made manager in 2008, Erik stepped up to become assistant manager and made an immediate impression.
“I thought I worked hard until I met Erik,” McClaren recently told The Daily Telegraph, looking back on a spell which prompted the first Dutch title in Twente’s history.
"His great strength lies not just in his attention to detail and organisation,” continued McClaren. “He has a clear philosophy of how he wants to play football; the environment he wants to create. The player progression programme was a key part of Twente.”
Inevitably, Ten Hag was constantly searching for the next step in his career, with a short-lived assistant’s role at PSV Eindhoven preceding a first foray into management with second-tier Go Ahead Eagles. Erik’s single season in charge resulted in promotion to the top flight and he quickly moved to further his education by taking charge of Bayern Munich II, the German giants’ reserve team.
There, he frequently crossed paths with then-Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, learning his trade for two years before returning to the Eredivisie, where he galvanised unfashionable FC Utrecht and led them to Europa League qualification. When Ajax relieved Marcel Keizer of the head coach’s role in December 2017, Erik’s impressive body of work convinced them to make him their new appointment and the decision was spectacularly validated in the years that followed.