‘Tactically outstanding’ – McClaren waxes lyrical about Man Utd linked Ten Hag

Steve McClaren has praised Erik ten Hag as ‘tactically outstanding’ amid speculation linking the Ajax manager with Manchester United.

Ten Hag is believed to be the frontrunner to be named as Manchester United’s next permanent manager and has held talks with the Red Devils regarding a move to the Premier League.


McClaren – who worked as an assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford – is familiar with Ten Hag from his time in the Netherlands, having had the 52-year-old as part of his coaching staff at FC Twente.

McClaren has praised Ten Hag’s tactical approach and clear methods, believing the Dutchman is ready to make the move to a leading club in Europe.

“His great strength lies not just in his attention to detail and organisation,” he told the Telegraph.

“He has a clear philosophy of how he wants to play football; the environment he wants to create.

“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 [Brazilian] 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.”

McClaren recalled his first meeting with Ten Hag and opened up on his meticulous planning and preparation, hailing the work-ethic of his former assistant.

“I knew that pre-season was due to start the next day and I said to Erik, ‘Have you got our first day organised?’ Over the next two hours he talked me through six weeks of pre-season work. Every last detail was accounted for. Every document ready. Every drinks break planned. He would say, ‘There is 20 minutes here for you to do your specific session and then we do this.’ I had never seen anything like it before or since.

“For both individuals and for the team the work was the best I had seen. The detail was logged even down to what the coaches would be wearing on each day, and that we would all come out together. He had planned what equipment had to be carried out and when it had to be brought back in.

“I would occasionally say to Erik during a session, ‘We just need that goal moving to the halfway line’, and he would ask every player in the squad to do it. All 22 players. Everyone goes. That’s the way he likes it.”

“I thought I worked hard until I met Erik,” he added.

McClaren believes Ten Hag has proven he ‘can do it at the top level at Ajax’ and praised his ability to change games from the touchline, likening his influence to Sir Alex Ferguson.

“He’s proved he can do it at the top level at Ajax,” McClaren said. “In terms of changing games, he is second to none. He had 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.”

“I would have to sit in the stand to analyse games that way but he can do it from the touchline and initiate changes. He was invaluable in my first year. I would not have survived if it hadn’t been for his work and his understanding of the game.

“The only other one I would have seen do that? That would have been the gaffer.”

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