The Ajax boss has agreed to a deal to become Manchester United’s new boss from the beginning of the 2022-23 season, and we’ve taken a look at just what he’ll be looking to put in place
Erik ten Hag has agreed to become the new Manchester United manager from the beginning of the 2022-23 season, and the Dutchman will be in no doubt about the size of the task on his hands.
The Ajax boss will step into an evolving drama at Old Trafford, with the club having spiraled somewhat out of control during years of mismanagement and poor recruitment.
Ten Hag can change all that with his progressive, modern approach, and having been preferred to Mauricio Pochettino for the role he will no doubt already have in mind what he wants to do.
The 52-year-old boss is said to have had ‘a five-year plan’ for the club which he unveiled during his ultimately successful round of interviews with United supremo John Murtough and Darren Fletcher, but what will that plan for a club desperate for success entail?
We’ve taken a look at what he’ll hope to achieve.
YEAR ONE: Implement a style of play
Following years of being managed either by coaches with out of date methods or those who never should have been there in the first place, United have ended up with a mish-mash of different styles, as well as players suited to those styles, and so not united to a collective approach.
That is simply not tolerable for a club trying to achieve things at the very summit of the game.
No-one is expecting Ten Hag to hit the ground running and suddenly start challenging the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool for major honors from the very beginning, but the Dutchman needs to at least look like he has a plan to get there.
That involves a clear idea, and the establishment of a Manchester United style of play, something that has been lacking for too long.
YEAR TWO: Get a core of players who are coming along for the ride
Ten Hag will obviously start this process in his first year, and by the beginning of his second season he should have no doubt about who he wants in his side going forward.
As it stands United will see the contracts of Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Fred, David de Gea, Diogo Dalot and Nemanja Matic all expire in 2023, and while some of those will obviously sign new deals by then, and others will be willingly let go, there is no doubt that the bulk of the group Ten Hag wants should be complete by then, with the style of play to the fore.
The Dutchman knows he has a big job on his hands to get United into the shape he wants, and some of these players will face a fight to be included.
YEAR THREE: Win something
Fans love seeing progress and the improvement of players, but what they really crave is success, and every manager who comes to United must know that.
Ten Hag is likely to get the first two seasons as a grace period if his team show signs that progress is being made, but in the end those same supporters will demand that silverware be brought into the club as a clear sign that they are back among the elite.
Jurgen Klopp was often pilloried for failing to bring a trophy to Liverpool in his first few seasons, but after taking it over during the 2015-16 campaign it was at the end of his third full season that he brought the Champions League to the club.
The new United boss might not have to win anything quite that substantial, but something will be needed.
YEAR FOUR: Live comfortably with the elite
It isn’t clear how Manchester City and Liverpool will look for the 2025-26 season, but as it stands neither one of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp will be in situ.
Again, that could all change, but while the success of those two clubs could well depend on just who has ended up replacing those two managerial titans, if Ten Hag is still at United then Year Four is when he’ll need to get his side looking comfortable as they rub shoulders with those elite sides of recent years.
United are used to that of course, but the inertia which has gripped them over much of the past decade simply can’t be there by summer 2026 if the Dutchman is to be deemed to have done a good job.
If it is, there might not even be a Year Five.
YEAR FIVE: Get back on the perch
Will Manchester United win the Premier League again before 2027? It’s certainly possible, and Ten Hag is going to have to be the man to make it happen if this is to be the right appointment.
The Dutchman will be tasked with restoring the Red Devils to the summit of the English game, and also making them a force in Europe once again, and the cutthroat reality is that it is like to have to have done it by the end of his five- year plan in order to be considered a success.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously installed United upon a perch, and Ten Hag has to get United to clamber back onto one.