New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag spoke to the media in a round of interviews today in which the Dutchman outlined his plans and vision for the club as he aims to be the man in the Old Trafford dugout to restore the English giants to their former glory.
Seemingly aware of the challenge ahead of him, in an interview with The Athletic, the 52-year-old reinforced his strong belief in himself, saying, “I must say I have a strong belief. This is a big challenge, but until now, everywhere I’ve been, I’ve got the maximum out of my teams. This is the project that is the most difficult. I realize that but I am here, so I am convinced that I can do it.”
According to news outlet PA Sport, the Dutchman backed himself to be the man to bring success back to the Theatre of Dreams. “I think that [trophies] belongs to the status of Manchester United, and that is what we will do. That will be the demand of the squad and of every player.”
The Dutchman provided a fresh perspective on the reasons behind United’s struggles last season, primarily pinning the squad’s underperformance on a lack of confidence. “You can see that it [last season] affected the players. Now we have to cheer them up and motivate them. We are trying to bring the confidence back. That is one of the important points to get success – that you have self-belief as an individual and as a team.”
United’s new boss was questioned on his signings and reported targets. On this, the former Ajax manager insisted that only the right players would be brought in. Ten Hag pointed out the holding midfield position as one that United are clearly attempting to address. Fellow countryman and Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has been widely linked with a reunion with his former manager and would likely fit the manager’s profile.
Refusing to be dragged into commenting about the prospect of signing De Jong, Ten Hag remarked, “We are looking for a player who can play in the holding midfield position, but it has to be the right one. There are not many in that position capable of the level we demand. We have a list, and we qualify as the player who has the competencies to play that role.”
“We will strike the moment the player is available. When we can’t find him, we have to deal with the players in our squad and we will develop one in that position.”
Another player who came to the fore during the interview was United’s number 7 and five-time-Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain has still not joined up with the rest of the team on their pre-season tour amidst uncertainty over the star’s Old Trafford future.
Numerous reports have linked Ronaldo with a move away to Atletico Madrid after it emerged that a host of top clubs such as Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and PSG were not interested in the services of the talisman.
Ten Hag lauded Ronaldo as a top player, saying, “In his career, he has shown everything. I have my set demand. We want to play in a certain way. A top player can contribute, and Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad.”
The United boss admitted to not knowing for certain where the Portugal national team captain would be playing next season or when he would be back for training. He went on to say, “I am well informed, he also has an option [of another year]. Yes [he could stay beyond next season]. Of course, I have signed here for three years but in football it’s short-term as well.”
In the interview with Jamie Jackson, Ten Hag spoke about United’s new defensive signing, Lisandro Martinez. On Martinez, Ten Hag said, “He’s not the tallest, but he is quite good in the air. I feel comfortable with it. Of course, you need the right balance. He has good timing; that’s one of his capabilities. We bring him in to not strengthen the squad, but the team.”
“He also brings a South American spirit, a controlled aggressiveness. I think it will fit really good to #mufc and our way of playing.”
The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson reports that on the United captaincy, Ten Hag backed the embattled Harry Maguire to regain his best form in what could be seen as a vote of confidence in the skipper. “I always see the captaincy as an issue I dictate. Team building is important, and I always talk about a group of leaders. The captain is a really important one and I’m happy with him [Maguire].”
The United manager, however, also warned that while Maguire would retain the captaincy, like other players, he would need to prove himself and meet the high expectations leveled on his shoulders.
According to the Guardian Sport, Ten Hag also distanced himself from former interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s comment that the Red Devils could catch up to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in 2-3 windows.
“I will not make such a statement. I want to get the maximum out of the players who are here, but it belongs to Manchester that you are always looking for better – for competition because that is a tool to lift them.
PA Sports also revealed that Ten Hag had spoken with United’s owners, the Glazer family, regarding their expectations and plans for the future. “They told me they want to get success and that it is the only thing they want. That is what they expect from me, to bring success.”