With Manchester United’s search for a new manager underway, speculation has naturally led to Ajax’s Erik Ten Hag.
Ten Hag has been one of the hottest managerial prospects in the game for a while now, having replaced Peter Bosz almost four year ago in December 2017. Since then he has won 135 of his 185 games (a 72.87% win percentage) with Ajax scoring a whopping 504 goals, conceding just 157 for a goal difference of +347. They did two consecutive domestic doubles and reached a Champions League semi-final.
You can see why he’s been linked with every top job around, and so naturally the proposition of taking over at Manchester United was put to him on Sunday as his side smashed RKC Waalwijk 0-5.
Ten Hag’s answer, as translated by @TheEuropeanLad, was evasive but fairly clear: “I am focused on my team, we have a brilliant squad and we want to achieve a lot.”
When asked if United don’t need to bother calling then, he continued to avoid a direct answer to the question “we have a brilliant squad, we want to fight for titles. My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts.”
However when he gave his reason, it made a lot of sense. “I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too.” Ten Hag making the smart play to show his own loyalty, meaning he will later be able to demand it from his players if big clubs should come around for them (and it’s Ajax, so of course they will).
The 2021/22 Ajax Passing network. ⛓ pic.twitter.com/IJ4fzBl4Oa
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 21, 2021
Finally, when the interviewer directly asked Ten Hag whether this line of questioning was weird, the Dutch coach gave a sliver of hope to Manchester United but yet again refusing to outright deny he could move to Manchester if approached, saying “I heard nothing about it, so I can’t think about it.”
That’s not a yes, but it’s not a no either. And while United have brief their intention to find an interim manager, Ten Hag left Utrecht to join Ajax in the winter of 2017, so he’s no opposed to a mid-season move if he thinks the situation is right.
Can Manchester United pitch him a project that would make him want to leave the dynamic and delirious dominance of Ajax? That remains to be seen. But while he is certainly committed to the Dutch side, his refusal to rule out a move to Manchester United must give the Old Trafford faithful hope that they could come out of this looking good.