Erik ten Hag faces first Manchester United challenge this weekend
The selection of Erik ten Hag as the new Manchester United manager remains shrouded in secrecy, but in the coming weeks, we should have a much better picture of what he will bring to Old Trafford.
The search for a new manager was formally concluded on Thursday when United declared that the 52-year-old would take charge at the conclusion of the season, though club sources had confirmed well before the official announcement that a deal was nearly completed. United postponed the announcement of Ten Hag until after the Dutch Cup final last weekend in order to avoid a distraction from the work at hand.
In retrospect, after a 2-1 setback to PSV Eindhoven, it could have been wise to get it out of the way, potentially galvanizing the team, even more, to guarantee their manager was given the best send-off. Ten Hag won’t be able to avoid the imminent career transition this weekend, even if he remains coy when questioned by the media about his upcoming move to England.
There will undoubtedly be a surge of interest in Ajax’s final five Eredivisie games as they seek their third title under Ten Hag, beginning with their trip to NEC Nijmegen this Saturday. Ajax presently leads the standings by four points, four points ahead of PSV, and knows they are in complete control of their own destiny.
Ten Hag’s team would have to drop points in at least two games to risk losing the crown, and even that scenario would require their competitors to win all of their games as well. However, while the third victory in four years may appear to be a foregone conclusion at this late juncture in the season, Ten Hag’s team will have a mental challenge to get over the line uninjured amid the huge expectation of another title triumph and the increased interest in whether they do so.
After losing the Dutch Cup final and being ousted by Benfica in the Champions League last 16, there are undoubtedly some concerns about his team’s ability to handle the pressure this season, something he will need to get used to at United. The ultimate conclusion is that, whether or not Ajax wins the league title, Ten Hag will walk into his new post at Old Trafford with the club’s full support to turn their fortunes around, but he’ll have even more detractors to prove wrong if his final season in Amsterdam ends trophyless.
Ten Hag may argue that his main attention right now is on the final few games with the Dutch club, but the truth is that he will now be judged against the near-perfect standards of a United manager. Pressure is a gift, and Ten Hag has just been given a boatload of it.