Ajax manager Erik ten Hag is being touted to be one of the favourites to succeed Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, should the Norwegian be sacked from his duties at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag has been a revelation at Ajax. From having worked under for Manchester United coach Steve McLaren at FC Twente to currently working under a Red Devil legend Edwin van der Sar at Ajax, Ten Hag definitely has a certain idea of what the red half of Manchester is all about.
While it is pretty easy to overlook Ajax’s achievements domestically when it comes to the Dutch league, on the pitch, it is quite a sight to witness when it comes to gamestyle.
Ajax’s gamestyle has been one of the biggest reasons of their recent success. While they concentrate on more of possession based football and most importantly, making full use of their incredible youth academy, Ten Hag’s side specifically follow a high pressing style of play.
The Dutchman usually sticks to a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation. The central midfielder of the three is mostly seen joining the team’s attack.
Current Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek used to run riot in that position, currently being occupied by Zakaria Labyad or Davy Klaassen.
The right-central-midfielder in Ten Hag’s formation is a box-to-box player in the form of Ryan Gravenberch, who took over this position from Frenkie De Jong when the latter left for FC Barcelona.
Now, what makes Ten Hag’s system so difficult to decode and beautiful to the viewer’s eyes is that all the three above mentioned players, Zakaria, Klaassen and Gravenberch slot into all of the three positions in midfield as and when necessary.
Talking about the front three, Sebastian Haller, Dusan Tadic and 21-year old Antony form part of Ten Hag’s attacking lineup and have been on fire this season.
The amount of variations Ten Hag brings to his style of play based on in-game conditions is something that is desperately needed at Manchester United.
Moreover, Ten Hag has a tendancy to bring the best out of almost all the players that he has managed in his short, but incredible career.
One of the highlights of him bringing the best of out players is none other than Donny van de Beek.
Solskjaer hasn’t been able to bring out the best from Van de Beek and some other players in his squad and his former manager Ten Hag could be the key in the player regaining his lost confidence and performing like the world beater is he expected to be.
Moreover, the way Ten Hag lines up his team, could be instrumental in giving players like Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood specific roles which could lead them to shine in games from the right side of United’s attack.
With Cristiano Ronaldo present up-top, Ten Hag will have potentially the greatest attacker of all time leading his side. The Dutch manager is perfectly capable of ensuring the Portuguese hitman gets the delivery in the box that he has made a career out of, something which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t able to tactically conjure up at the moment.
Last, but not the last, Ten Hag’s teams have been lauded for their work off the ball, something which the current Manchester United side have yet to learn. Only Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek seem to have a natural understanding of making space in order to help the team.
With the Dutchman at the helm, every single player playing for him will gain expertise in pressing and making important runs in order to make space for teammates or help the team score goals.
It is unlikely that he will take up the Manchester United job if it comes mid-season due to his committment to Ajax. Ten Hag has previously refused offers from Bayern Munich already, which makes him a tough one to get mid-season.
However, if and when Manchester United come calling, almost every manager answers, and if Ten Hag answers, United fans will be guaranteed fireworks in terms of style of play.
But, to be very honest, there is absolutely no certainty that this exciting, innovative style of play will win trophies for the club, something a club like Manchester United always needs.