Before taking this any further, it has to be said that Rio Ferdinand was absolutely on the mark with comments he made about the impending managerial appointment at Old Trafford. In an almost poetic nudge to the Stone Roses song which Manchester United stride out to on matchdays, Ferdinand proclaimed ‘this is the one’ United have been waiting for.
As things stand, Erik ten Hag appears to be that one. Identified as a preferred candidate to step into the dugout on a permanent basis, the Dutchman has held talks with the United hierarchy and he must know what is on the horizon should he sign on the dotted line.
“It’s a big decision, man. This is the one that changes everything at the club right now. This is the one that has to be the driver to the route to success, sustained success, to get the club to challenge again. It’s a great decision.
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“This is a massive, massive appointment because we’ve been in a bad situation for far too long now. It’s about the culture of the club. You need someone who can put the right culture in place.”
Those are the words from Ferdinand as he shares his take on the United situation. Don’t pressure then, Erik.
Naturally, Ten Hag will already understand what comes with the territory. Despite a dearth of silverware – and not one Premier League trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 – United remain one of the very biggest clubs on the planet, if not the biggest, and things are not about to change there.
In-house or otherwise, pressure is a prerequisite. Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho got that and were well-seated to deal with it, too, having managed other elites in their respective, glittering managerial careers.
Whatever your stance on their tenures, United went down one particular route twice and, as Ferdinand notes, any success Ten Hag conjures up will come down to culture. Unlike his predecessors, the Dutchman must not under any circumstances be undermined by figures above him.
Change is afoot at Old Trafford and appointments in the boardroom indicate that. However, it must be proved by the way in which they back Ten Hag – or whoever the successful candidate might be – and perhaps Ralf Rangnick is the key component there as he prepares to move into an advisory, go-between role.
During his time in Amsterdam, Ten Hag promptly restored Eredivisie order as far as Ajax are concerned and, armed with arguably their best generation of talent since the famous Champions League winners in 1995, the 52-year-old put them back on the map as European contests.
It can be done. Replicating that upturn at United will be a difficult ask given what has gone before him, while Manchester City and Liverpool continue to raise the bar in the Premier League and beyond. Finances and structure are not in question, as such. Backing, in that sense, comes from allowing Ten Hag along with Rangnick to put in place tried and tested methods from elsewhere. They will be judged on results and signings – but the latter must not, as it has done before, act as a mask for ‘support’.
Ferdinand speaks openly about bringing the right culture to the club. United have seemingly set their sights on a man capable of doing exactly that and he must be given space and the platform to show it.
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