“[Erik ten Hag] has been doing well with us for years and Manchester United has been doing badly for years.” That’s what Davy Klaassen said when asked for his thoughts on speculation linking his current Ajax manager with the Old Trafford vacancy.
The former Everton midfielder also wanted to make it clear that his manager was under contract at Ajax until 2023 and an exit was far from a guarantee. This comes after Pep Guardiola earlier this week praised Ten Hag and suggested him as a candidate to succeed him at the Etihad Stadium next summer.
Guardiola said of Ten Hag: “An incredible person, and human being. I was surprised at how humble and good (he was at Bayern Munich). The qualities he has, just look at his Ajax team in the last years. A joy to watch, in many, many things.”
READMORE: Manchester United fans question Darren Fletcher and Ralf Rangnick opposite roles in manager talks
It is a real sign of the times for United: a player with no relationship with the club making such blunt comments about the state of affairs at Old Trafford. But, also, most concerning is that Klaasen is probably right.
The Mirror’s Darren Lewis said on Sky Sports earlier this week: “It shouldn’t be the case that you go to the manager of Ajax and say we want you and he’s deciding whether or not to come, he should be crawling over broken glass to come to United.” That may not be the case.
United, for their part, are going about things correctly. They have given themselves time to conduct a thorough interview process to find their next manager, while Ralf Rangnick steers the ship for the remainder of the season.
Ten Hag is considered the frontrunner, tracked closely by Mauricio Pochettino, but why should a manager currently seen among the most promising in Europe with, in theory, the pick of his next role, come to United? It’s by no means a foregone conclusion that United are the lure of yesteryear unless the manager gets certain guarantees that things are going to change.
Under Ed Woodward, the club did not focus on the footballing aspect as much as it should, pointed out by Louis van Gaal when he echoed Klaassen’s sentiments in his own interview just a few weeks ago. Many fans have questioned whether United have the structure in place for any manager to succeed and it is likely that Ten Hag will have those same questions with his career being put on the line as well.
The appointment of John Murtough and Darren Fletcher is a step in the right direction and Ralf Rangnick will hopefully be able to guide the project in his consultancy role, whatever form that job takes. But you wouldn’t blame Ten Hag for having reservations or even rejecting the role if he doesn’t think that he will get the required support.
And the same can be said for any manager that is appointed, including Pochettino. The club’s broken image is clear for everyone to see, from fans to players inside the club and out – and that includes potential future managers – and it needs to change soon.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.