There is one name on the tongue of every Manchester United fan these days – Erik Ten Hag. Why you ask? He’s not the special one or the normal one. But for the United loyalists, he is the ‘Chosen one.’ The one who will walk out of the tunnel at Old Trafford onto that sacred pitch and make the opponents pray that they never have to face United again. He is the one trusted to bring the ‘Glory’ days back.
But why is he different from all the others that took up the poisoned chalice after Sir Alex Ferguson? The answer lies a few thousand miles away in the Netherlands, where Ten Hag started his journey as a player and then found his calling to be a manager.
Ten Hag’s first managerial job was a tricky one. He was appointed with an objective to take Go Ahead Eagles, a team that had been struggling to reach the top division of Dutch football, Eredivisie for 16 seasons.
Ten Hag entered the dressing room with his razor-sharp mentality, and professionalism and uplifted the standards of not just the team but of the club as well. He imbibed a philosophy of ‘serious intent’ to take the club back to the top tier of Dutch football.
So when a strange request to get a door with a windowpane for his office came to the Go Ahead Eagles’ administration, the players, staff, and everyone around wanted to know why was he doing such a thing? Is it to keep tabs on everyone? Is he a strict authoritarian? But Ten Hag’s reply settled all doubts.
‘No, if the door is closed and there is no window, it is difficult to come in because maybe I am busy and people will not want to knock. Now people will see if I am free and that makes it easier to come in.’
Ten Hag’s transparency in his work and towards everyone was a beautiful sight to behold. This is the dedication that the Dutch club hadn’t seen before. He wasn’t there just for the sake of it, just for doing his job and earning some easy cash but he wanted to fix a club, make it worthwhile for anyone who watches them play, and build a team of players who can shake off all nerves.
The 52-year-old manager has a proven track record of building teams from scratch and delivering results. Ajax is the latest example of Ten Hag’s audacious philosophy. He needs time, but more than that he needs the patience of the club, the fans, and anyone who supports United.
Premier League isn’t known for its patience with managers. Erik needs it though and if given, he will thrive on it and make the Red Devils a force to be reckoned with. But if he wants to please the fans with a Premier League title, he needs to demolish the innumerable closed doors built by his predecessors unknowingly.