A hard-working, unified team playing attacking and entertaining soccer. Erik ten Hag has set out his vision for Manchester United after being presented as the fifth manager in nine years at a fallen giant coming off its worst ever season in the Premier League. (More Football News)
"The current situation is obviously not that good. It’s a big challenge," Ten Hag told United’s in-house TV channel in an interview published Monday.
The previous day, Ten Hag was at Selhurst Park to watch United lose 1-0 at Crystal Palace to conclude a fifth straight season without a trophy and finish the league in sixth place on 58 points — its lowest total since the Premier League was created in 1992.
United has resembled a dysfunctional club this season — on and off the field — and Ten Hag will front a huge rebuilding job after joining from Ajax, which he returned to the summit of Dutch soccer by adopting the attacking philosophy of the team’s most famous player, Johan Cruyff.
He wants to do the same at United in a bid to end its longest trophy drought in nearly 40 years. The club hasn't won a title since the 2017 Europa League, it's worst run since the early 1980s.
"I want to build and construct a team who are battling for each other, who are unified and who will get results," he said.
"Also we are playing in the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ — we want to entertain. But in the end, the intention is to play fantastic football. If we can’t play fantastic football, we still have to win.”
Ten Hag also made sure to keep a link to the great United teams led by Alex Ferguson when making choosing his backroom staff.
Steve McClaren will be one of Ten Hag’s two assistants, with the former England coach returning to Old Trafford for a second spell after being the No. 2 to Ferguson in 1999-2001 -- when United won three straight league titles.
Ten Hag spoke of the “fighting culture” that marked past United teams and said there is clearly potential in the current squad, given it finished second in the league in the 2020-21 season.
This season, United was 35 points behind champion Manchester City.
"It's a process," Ten Hag said. "It will take time but I'm convinced we will come to that point where we get success. We have to work hard and it has to be based on the right philosophy and strategy."
That includes doing “the pressing, the total high-pressing … and the adventurous football” that was the signature of his Ajax team.
But Ten Hag said he had to adapt to United, too.
"It’s about the Man United football and about the Man United identity and philosophy," he said. "It has to be about attacking football. We have to bring structures in the way of playing, so we can play attacking football."