Erik ten Hag is determined to improve Manchester United ‘s young stars and turn their potential into trophies – and hard cash.
The 52-year-old Dutch coach wants to put his own stamp on United by raiding the transfer market to recruit new players this summer. But he’s also adamant he can improve youngsters like Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Anthony Elanga on the training pitch – just like he did at Ajax.
Ten Hag, who bids farewell to the Dutch champions in their final Eredivisie game of the season at Vitesse Arnhem Sunday, wants to recreate the Ajax model – by increasing players value through the intensive individual programmes he employed in Holland. “A lot of clubs are looking at the top players now at Ajax. If they cannot be kept, they will generate a lot of money for Ajax.
”There is massive interest in players like Ryan Gravenberch, Jurriën Timber, Brazilian forward Antony and Sebastien Haller. We have created a team again that is not only top class in a sporting way, but also economically big value.
“There is a massive amount of capital on the pitch. Ajax will sell players for at least another 100 million Euros this summer.’’ Gravenberch, 19, looks to be heading to Bayern Munich this summer while central defender Timber and striker Antony were both targets for United even before ten Hag was appointed as Old Trafford’s new manager.
Ten Hag oversaw the development of some of the best young stars Ajax have produced in recent years – with the club banking a hefty £372 million when they were sold. The list includes midfielder Frenkie de Jong and defender Mattijs de Ligt both sold for £77 million each in 2019 to Barcelona and Juventus respectively.
Ten Hag also polished Hakim Ziyech into a dangerous winger with Chelsea paying £36 million for the Moroccan in 2020 before selling Donny van der Beek in a £35 million deal to United later the same summer. The Dutch coach impressed Ajax so much during his four and a half year stay club Chief Executive and former Old Trafford and Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar hopes he returns to Amsterdam after his stint at United.
“The best thing I can say now is that Erik is walking out through the front door at Ajax. I wish him all the luck he needs at Manchester United and I actually hope to see him again here one day.’’
However, ten Hag’s departure hasn’t been without controversy with the coach raising eyebrows after dedicating the Dutch title triumph to disgraced former Director of Football Marc Overmars. Former Arsenal winger Overmars brought ten Hag to Ajax from Utrecht in 2017 and supported the manager during difficult times in his first season in Amsterdam.
“This title is very much Marc’s title” said ten Hag. “We have built this team together and together we have changed the culture of the club. I am happy for Marc that we have won this championship in the Netherlands and I will always stay in touch with him.’’
Ten Hag’s words were received with mixed feelings with sporting director Overmars forced to resign after very inappropriate messages to a number of female colleagues in the offices at Ajax. His actions are still subjected to a large investigation and they have caused more than a stir among the 400 employees at the club.