Ryan Gravenberch of Ajax and Coach Erik Ten Hag of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax and Go Ahead Eagles at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on November 7, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands

5 of Ten Hag’s former players Man Utd can target before the window closes

So far during his tenure as Manchester United manager, Erik ten Hag has not been afraid to target players he’s worked with in the past. The Dutchman has signed Andre Onana, Lisandro Martinez and Antony, all of whom he coached at Ajax.

It’s no surprise, then, that Manchester United continue to be linked with players that Ten Hag has worked with in the past. And after a series of unconvincing performances to kick off the 2023-24 campaign, it looks as though they could do with additions to their squad in the final days of the transfer window.

We’ve identified five players of Ten Hag’s former players that would be a good fit for United.

Sofyan Amrabat

Everyone knows Amrabat from his lung-busting performances in the heart of Morocco’s midfield in their run to the World Cup semi-finals last year, but it’s lesser known that he developed his game at boyhood club FC Utrecht, coming on leaps and bounds under Ten Hag.

“That was so important for me,” Amrabat told The Athletic, recalling when Ten Hag took over at Utrecht.

“It was my second year in the first team. He made a plan for me. He asked me about my strong points and what I wanted to improve. From the first day, he was busy with me. Not only me, all the players.

“A lot of coaches are busy in general with the team but he put a lot of time into individual work because he knew if the individual was better the team would be better.

“After every game, he would take me through a video and explain everything to me. I was 18 or 19 years old, so sometimes I was thinking, ‘Oof, again?’. But now, when I look back, I know it was so important for my career. I learned such a lot from him.”

This is the name that has dominated the gossip columns this summer for United and appears a logical fit to plug the gaps in United’s porous midfield. He’s currently training alone at Fiorentina, who are reportedly open to selling at the right place. Expect this one to run until the end of the window.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

A surprise new name has emerged. Hojbjerg is still only 28 but feels like a grizzled Premier League veteran already, having notched over 200 appearances in the competition for Southampton and Tottenham.

The experienced Denmark international has been a near ever-present over the past three seasons for Spurs, but there are early hints that he may have fallen down the midfield pecking order under new boss Ange Postecoglou.

Hojbjerg has only made two substitute appearances so far this season, with the Australian coach preferring Pape Matar Sarr and Yves Bissouma for his engine room.

A decade ago, Hojbjerg was on the books of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich but appeared regularly for their B Team – which Ten Hag was coaching – during the 2013-14 campaign.

Ten Hag has spoken on the record of his admiration for Hojbjerg in the past.

“I really wanted him to be there. We were really close to that. We have spoken to him several times,” Ten Hag told Voetbal International back in January 2021 whilst he was in charge of Ajax.

“That boy really could have made our team stronger. Financially we would have made it out, I think. He could also go to other clubs, but wanted to come to Ajax. But then Tottenham came before him and we still got the short straw.”

Ryan Gravenberch

An Ajax academy product that went on to thrive in the first team under Ten Hag, following in the footsteps of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs De Ligt, Gravenberch has frequently been linked with a reunion with his old boss after struggling to cement his place in Bayern Munich’s midfield.

“I expected to play more minutes than I did. I thought I would get some more chances,” Gravenberch said earlier this summer.

“It’s about just wanting to play, that’s the most important thing at my age. I hope this can happen at Bayern Munich, otherwise we’ll just have to look further.”

So far this season, Gravenberch has made just one nine-minute substitute appearance for Bayern. Will he kick up a fuss and try to push through a move before the window closes?

READ: An amazing XI of players Ten Hag got the best out of: Tadic, Van de Beek…

Brian Brobbey

“Dream club? Manchester United,” the Netherlands Under-21 international told Voetbal International last September.

“Erik sent me a message, yes, to congratulate me, and to tell me that he would like to have me at Manchester United. But I’m not finished at Ajax yet, I want to show something here first.

“I absolutely wanted to go to Ajax. Erik also wanted to work with me, texted once if I was open to it, but I thanked him nicely.”

Links to Brobbey have quietened down considerably since he returned to Amsterdam last summer but with Anthony Martial’s injury record and Rasmus Hojlund yet to make his debut, there’s an argument that United could still do with another striker.

Everton have recently been linked with the 21-year-old, who scored 13 goals in 32 Eredivisie appearances last term. 

Noussair Mazraoui

Bayern Munich failed in their pursuit to sign Kyle Walker, but the fact they were chasing him suggests that Thomas Tuchel isn’t entirely happy with his existing right-back options.

Like Gravenberch, Mazraoui struggled to make an impact at the Allianz Arena after moving from Ajax last summer, although he did enjoy a more extended run in the team after Tuchel replaced Julian Nagelsmann.

Only five players made more appearances for Ten Hag’s Ajax than Mazraoui, who once again underlined his quality with his performances in Morocco’s World Cup run.

It would be a difficult one to do, and arguably unnecessary given Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s renaissance. There remains a school of thought that United could do with a more front-footed right-back, however.

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