Manchester United: A first week and expectations for Erik Ten Hag
The new boss of the Red Devils has just lived his first week at the head of the club, the opportunity to measure the size of the task that awaits him
Erik ten Hag’s decision to start work early at Manchester United has contributed to Ralf Rangnick’s departure from his consulting role.
The German confirmed this week that he would not accept the two-year contract after being named Austria coach.
An early power grab
Manchester United described the decision as mutual, but felt they could do without the German’s transfer expertise after the many changes implemented by director of soccer John Murtough in recent months.
They are also confident that they are ahead of schedule thanks to Ten Hag, who began preseason planning in early May.
The Dutchman met with Murtough in Amsterdam on May 12, where they discussed their transfer needs, before turning his full attention to his new position immediately after his last game as Ajax coach on May 15.
Considering David Moyes had to wait until July 1 to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson after ending his contract at Everton, the United hierarchy hopes Ten Hag has given himself the best chance of being operational.
That is seen as a contributing factor to the cancellation of Rangnick’s role – which would have seen the former interim manager work six days a month as a consultant.
His knowledge of the transfer market was to be a key part of his duties, but after a reshuffle of their recruitment department, which saw the departure of head scout, Jim Lawlor, and head of global scouting, Marcel Bout, it was determined that Rangnick’s expertise was less necessary.
Precise recruitment in sight
Ten Hag has a clear idea of the players he wants to recruit this summer – with a midfielder and a striker as priorities – while he and Murtough are reportedly in sync.
Murtough has also just appointed an assistant in Andy O’Boyle to strengthen the recruitment.
Notably, United have no intention of following Rangnick’s advice that they need no fewer than 10 new players.
Ten Hag could sign five this summer – believing that all areas of the game need strengthening – but he is also convinced that a team that finished second the previous season has far more potential than its performance last year would suggest.
He was not involved in the departures of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata this week, but he agrees with Murtough that departures were necessary.
Edinson Cavani is also gone, while Nemanja Matic will also leave the club. Frenkie de Jong is a prime target in midfield.
Declan Rice is of long-term interest, but his price tag may rule out a transfer, with United unwilling to pay too much, while Kalvin Phillips is also being considered. Darwin Nunez is highly admired, as is Jurrien Timber.
Ten Hag is currently on vacation and will be back in time for preseason training on June 27.
His arrival is said to have caused a wave of electricity in the club after he made a point of meeting as many staff members as possible at Old Trafford and Carrington.
He was described as the “new sheriff” and spent his first four days in the UK working in United’s London Mayfair offices before attending the final game of the season against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
As he left the ground – with 10 minutes to spare to catch a flight to Manchester – he would not have known whether he would be managing a team in the Europa League or the European Conference League next season, with United having lost 1-0 and needing to get results elsewhere to maintain their sixth place finish.
United staff were struck by the friendliness of the new manager, who shook hands and chatted with a number of them as Murtough gave him a guided tour of Old Trafford.
Outside, he took time to meet fans and pose for selfies. It was his first visit to the stadium in any capacity. He has yet to meet the players.
Ten Hag also made a point of shaking hands with members of the media before his opening press conference.
It’s a small gesture, but one that shows how important it will be to get everyone on board with what is such a difficult job.
Of all Ferguson’s successors, only Moyes has understood this, with Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer always keeping their distance.
Before leaving on vacation, Ten Hag started looking for a home. There will be no repeat of Mourinho’s stay at the Lowry Hotel.
He remains in contact with Murtough, who will lead negotiations with targeted players and agents.
Longtime negotiator Matt Judge will also be involved as he prepares his notice before leaving the club.
This relationship between Ten Hag and Murtough is seen as critical to United’s success going forward – which is why Rangnick’s input was no longer needed.