The biographer of Erik ten Hag says Manchester United’s manager can be compared favorably with Holland’s greatest coaches.
Like Ten Hag, Johan Cruyff, Rinus Michels, and Louis van Gaal all took charge of Ajax during their successful careers and Maarten Meijer says United’s manager boasts many of the traits of the trio.
Meijer, whose new book, Ten Hag: The Biography was released before Christmas, says there’s a strong connection running through all four Dutch managers.
He told Tribalfootball.com: “Ten Hag is interesting because he came through Amsterdam, where he spent several years. He was affected by that period and he has that Ajax school mentality that I think he already had before he went there. I think that’s why he was a good fit but he cultivated it even more during those four and a half years that he was in Amsterdam.”
Significantly, Meijer also points out that while Ten Hag’s approach does have similarities to Van Gaal, he is not as “rigid” as the former United manager, who drew criticism during his time at Old Trafford for his lack of tactical flexibility.
He continued: “He has a clear, very clear vision of how he wants to play, incredibly attacking football like Ajax, that’s Cruyff, that’s Van Gaal – I mean how he used to be – not, not so much now, unfortunately.
“His (Ten Hag’s) high press is very strong. So he fits very much in that whole system.”
Meijer also revealed Ten Hag style of play and commitment to Ajax’s principles is a conscious effort. The United manager being very open regarding his admiration for Cruyff, Van Gaal and Michels.
He said, “In the book I mentioned also that he has had pictures hanging in his office of Michels, Cruyff and Van Gaal, so he really fits in with that group.”
And on the differences between Ten Hag and Van Gaal, Meijer says the United manager’s early season adjustments is proof enough of where the similarities of the pair end.
He added: “Van Gaal has a certain way of thinking and playing and it’s just has to happen that way and there’s just no other way. But Ten Hag is much more pragmatic.
“You saw that interesting development also in the first two games, they were a disaster.
“Brentford you know was terrible, because he was trying to over play, how he wanted to play and he realised, ‘wait a minute, this doesn’t work’. And then he made a big switch, and he starts to kind of play more the way that Manchester played before.
“So he can make adjustments he’s pragmatic and then gradually, little by little, he puts his system in place.”