April 21 – It was an open secret and now it’s confirmed. Manchester United, who have the most expensive squad in the Premier League but haven’t won a trophy for five years, have the man they hope will finally bring back the glory days.
Ajax’s Erik ten Hag (pictured), regarded as one of the most progressive coaches in Europe, will take over from interim boss Ralf Rangnick at the end of this season on a three-year deal which can be extended by another 12 months.
United’s last piece of silverware was the Europa League in 2017 and this season’s win rate in all competitions is their lowest since the Premier League was founded.
United’s worldwide fan base has been crying out for a fresh start and after the 4-0 trouncing by Liverpool on Tuesday, which left them in sixth place and their chances of Champions League qualification further diminished, former skippers Roy Keane and Gary Neville, both now established tv pundits, did not mince their words.
“There was no heart, no leadership,” said Keane while Neville went further. “The club is broken, the stadium is falling apart, the training ground is behind the times, the manager needs replacing and the playing squad needs clearing out,” he declared.
Even Rangnick appeared to realise there was little more he could do. “It’s embarrassing, it’s disappointing, maybe even humiliating,” he bemoaned.
Ten Hag, who in recent months moved into pole position to land the job over Mauricio Pochettino, will become United’s fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club seeks to re-establish itself as a dominant force in the English and European game.
“It is a great honour to be appointed manager of Manchester United and I am hugely excited by the challenge ahead,” he told the club’s website.
“I know the history of this great club and the passion of the fans, and I am absolutely determined to develop a team capable of delivering the success they deserve.
“It will be difficult to leave Ajax after these incredible years, and I can assure our fans of my complete commitment and focus on bringing this season to a successful conclusion before I move to Manchester United.”
John Murtough, United’s football director, added: “During the past four years at Ajax, Erik has proved himself to be one of the most exciting and successful coaches in Europe, renowned for his team’s attractive, attacking football and commitment to youth.”
Although he has been a huge success at Ajax both domestically and in Europe – he took them to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2018/19, the first time they had reached that stage of the competition in 22 years – the global scrutiny he will now face will be new territory.
At the top of his in-tray, surprising as it may seem, will be a rebuilding job despite a star-studded squad reckoned to be worth £801 million.
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