What 9 top coaches have said about Erik ten Hag: ‘Very complex but cool’

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Ajax manager Erik ten Hag fist bump after the match at Anfield. December 2020.

It’s finally official: Erik ten Hag will take over as Manchester United manager this summer. And the current Ajax boss is very highly thought of among his fellow managers.

Ten Hag, who became Ajax manager in December 2017, has won two Eredivisie titles while forging a reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting coaches.

We’ve taken a look at what managers and coaches around Europe have previously said about the 52-year-old.

Jurgen Klopp

“Erik is rightly regarded as one of the most exciting coaching talents in world football at the moment because of the work he does with Ajax,” Klopp said in December 2020.

“Of course, it is a wonderful club – one of the stellar names of European football – but in this moment it is clear they have outstanding leadership of the organisation and Erik is a big part of that.

“They have had to adapt in recent seasons after losing a few players to rival clubs. I remember from my own experience at Dortmund how that feels and what a challenge it is.

“How they deal with it is exceptional. The foundations of the team remain solid and they have recruited well. They have a clear identity. I love watching them, I have to say.”

Pep Guardiola

“We spoke quite regularly and he is just an incredible person and human being. I was surprised at how humble he was,” Guardiola said in April 2022 about Ten Hag, who was previously in charge of Bayern Munich’s second team.

“For his qualities, just take a look at his Ajax team in the last years. It is a joy to watch. In many, many games, not just the year they got to the Champions League semi-final.

“In terms of qualities, just look at his teams. To define a manager, watch his team for a long time. This is a team, and this manager makes the players play.

“There is no doubt about that. If I was 100 per cent sure I would call Manchester United and say, ‘Guys, you have to take him,’ but nobody knows.”

Ralf Rangnick

“I don’t know him, to start with, as a person,” United’s interim manager told Sky Sports in March 2022.

“Obviously, I have seen the development at Ajax since he’s been there, I know a little bit about his work when he was with Bayern Munich and that he is one of the top coaches in Europe, that’s obvious, but there are a few other top coaches.

“As I said, we haven’t spoken about any new manager so far, therefore, we also didn’t speak about him.”

Louis van Gaal

“I think Erik ten Hag is a great coach,” the current Netherlands manager said in March 2022. “And a great coach is always good for Manchester United.”

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal congratulates Marcus Rashford (left) on his performance as he is substituted against Arsenal. Old Trafford, February 2016.

READ: Where are they now? The 15 kids handed Man Utd debuts by Van Gaal

Steve McClaren

– “The only other one I would have seen do that?” McClaren told The Telegraph when asked about Ten Hag’s ability to analyse games in real-time and make changes that affect matches. “That would have been the gaffer [Alex Ferguson].”

– “His great strength lies not just in his attention to detail and organisation. He has a clear philosophy of how he wants to play football; the environment he wants to create,” McClaren added.

“The player progression programme was a key part of Twente. He has done that at Ajax too, for each player from the academy to the first team. You look at Hakim Ziyech and now the [Ajax] striker Antony, a very good player who will be the next one to go. I have seen this Ajax team and it’s very good.

“Erik is very disciplined and people have to buy into that and have that work ethic. Tactically he’s outstanding.

“He worked with Pep [Guardiola] at Bayern Munich and took in his philosophy too. They called him ‘Mini Pep’ out there. He’s ready. A lot of top clubs in Germany and England will be out to get him.”

– “He’s proved he can do it at the top level at Ajax,” McClaren added. “In terms of changing games, he is second to none. He has carried on with that work ethic and he’s a far better coach and manager now. He was way ahead of his time. Even in Holland.”

Jaap Stam

“Ten Hag is doing very well at Ajax; he makes the team a difficult opponent for everyone in Europe and Holland,” the former United defender told Sky Sports Italy in March 2022.

“He is very good at showing the players what to do and also at improving individual players. At Ajax, he obviously has the finances to grow the team with young players.

“For him, Man United would be another thing compared to what he is experiencing in Holland. He has to take this step forward in his career.”

Ajax manager Erik ten Hag talks to Dusan Tadic at the Johan Cruyff Arena. October 2020.

READ: ‘One of the best coaches’ – What Ten Hag’s players have said about him

Eric Steele

“He was very thorough, unbelievable detail — like Pep Guardiola,” United’s former goalkeeping coach told The Athletic.

“‘When we lose the ball in this area this is what we do.’ ‘This is how to win the ball in this situation.’ Specific moments in games mapped out. He was also coaching his players when to go for the jugular and when to retain possession. I liked his manner.”

Rick Kruys

“A world opened up for me,” Ten Hag’s former assistant at Utrecht told The Guardian. “What he does is very complex but also super cool. I started watching football very differently.”

Sjors Ultee

“What I learned most from him is nagging,” Ultee, who also worked as Ten Hag’s assistant at Utrecht, told Voetbal International.

“I don’t mean that negatively: Erik is not satisfied with one right and one wrong. Nor with nine times right and one wrong. Erik really wants it right 10 ti… no, 100 times out of 100. And not a little right, but perfectly right.”

Steve McClaren

“We were starting pre-season training the day after I was appointed,” McClaren told The Athletic when reflecting on his time at Twente. “He [Ten Hag] brought out this folder, and there were six weeks worth of pre-season training planned in there.

“Every minute of every day was laid out, from drinks sessions to warming down, to individual work. It was so detailed. I’d not seen anything like it before, and I’ve not seen anything like it since.

“He would prepare meticulous game plans about the opposition. How we were going to press, how we were going to build up. I thought I knew football before, but going there and experiencing that… I knew nothing about football.”

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