Manchester United have visibly improved under the shrewd stewardship of Erik ten Hag and the Dutch boss is proving every day why the club wrote off a whole season to wait for him to spearhead the rebuild.
Most of United’s players are on an upward trajectory and while Ten Hag will largely take the plaudits, his assistant Mitchell van der Gaag is also partly responsible for the team’s recent upturn in fortunes.
The Athletic’s Dan Sheldon and Laurie Whitwell report that Van der Gaag and Ten Hag enjoy an extremely close relationship and that the two work in unison on almost every aspect of coaching at Old Trafford along with Steve McClaren.
So strong is the pair’s partnership that when Van de Gaag was presented with an option to join Ten Hag at United, he immediately packed his bags and joined him at the expense of a more prominent and lucrative position at Ajax.
Ajax were reportedly ready to offer the assistant coach the managerial job to sway him from going to England.
Sheldon and Whitwell relay, “When United approached Ten Hag and he subsequently asked Van der Gaag whether he wanted to join him at Old Trafford, those close to the former Belenenses manager said it was an easy decision for him to make.”
“Such is the relationship between the pair, Ten Hag knows his assistant will spend every working hour developing the squad and watching video footage.”
“One source joked how the only movie Van der Gaag would view is United’s training sessions or the club’s latest match.”
As per The Athletic, Ten Hag 100% trusts Van der Gaag as he knows his Dutch compatriot will not try to usurp him or dislodge him from his role as United’s manager.
A source likened Van der Gaag’s loyalty to an employee working in a shop – he can be trusted to the extent that you will not have to worry about him bolting away with the business’ money.
On what exactly the 51-year-old does on a day-to-day basis at United, Sheldon and Whitwell indicate that he is the link between Ten Hag and the larger coaching team, describing him as the person entrusted to ensure the “nuts and bolts” of the operation work through overseeing daily training sessions and coming up with training schedules.
Ten Hag is said to value both Van der Gaag and McClaren in equal measure – there is no rank between the two. Hopefully, he can continue being an integral piece in Ten Hag’s rebuilding efforts.
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