ON THE ROAD: Erik ten Hag saw big calls BACKFIRE as Ajax lose the Dutch Cup final… the incoming Man United boss has courage of his conviction and will DEMAND pampered stars accept his pressing style (but don’t expect any touchline histrionics!)
- Erik ten Hag sees his side beaten by rivals PSV after leading at half-time
- Sportsmail looks at what we learned from watching the Dutchman up close
- Ajax will not win another double but the league title is still in their grasp
Erik ten Hag was in no mood to discuss his imminent move to Manchester United in the wake of Ajax’s loss to PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Cup final.
‘I think this is the time to end the press conference,’ said the Ajax boss when the subject was raised. ‘I will need 24 hours to recover from this.’
His team were floored by two goals in the space of three minutes shortly after half-time after a well-taken Ryan Gravenberch goal put them ahead.
Erik ten Hag saw his side lose against rivals PSV having led at half-time in the Dutch Cup Final
It means Ten Hag won’t sign off in Amsterdam by winning another Double but Ajax can still win the league title.
Sportsmail takes a look at what we learned about Ten Hag from Ajax’s final defeat.
Big selection calls
Any United fans wondering if Ten Hag has the courage of his convictions got a big clue when the teamsheets were handed in.
Sebastien Haller, Ajax’s principal striker with 33 goals in 37 outings this season, was dropped to the bench for this showpiece match and replaced with the largely untried 20-year-0ld Brian Brobbey.
The usual first-choice goalkeeper Andre Onana was left out the squad entirely amid an ongoing row about his fitness levels.
Erik ten Hag’s decision not to start with star forward Sebastian Haller backfired
Ten Hag, in a pre-match TV interview, was challenged three times by on his pre-match assertion that Onana was injured. Ten Hag repeated himself three times before fixing his interviewer a steely glare. End of debate.
United’s stars beware – fail to live up to Ten Hag’s expectations and you’ll be cut. He is known to pick his team based on top performers in training on any given week, there will be no slacking.
He brought on Haller with 18 minutes to go as Ajax chased an equaliser – an admission he got the call wrong, perhaps.
Dressed in suit jacket and sweater on a boiling afternoon in Rotterdam, Ten Hag cut a largely motionless, slightly haunched figure as he stood on the sideline.
He is a calm presence – we’ll see no Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho-style histrionics at Old Trafford. The occasional wave of the arm was about as animated as he got.
The Ajax manager was a calm presence on the touchline and histrionics won’t be expected
Even when Ajax scored through Ryan Gravenberch, his reaction was an understated fist pump. The fourth official did get an icy glare when a penalty box trip on Dusan Tadic went unchecked by VAR.
At the end, he froze for a few seconds, as if trying to figure out in his mind where he got it wrong, before inching forward to console his players. It was noticeable they avoided eye contact with their manager at first.
Ten Hag answered a question on United in his post-match press conference in pretty good English but didn’t wish to discuss the topic.
United’s pampered stars have refused to buy into Ralf Rangnick’s heavy pressing style. But you sense there will be no excuses when Ten Hag arrives.
His Ajax team move about the field in a fluid motion. When they push forward, everyone commits to attack. When required to defend, everyone must run back.
There is assurance in playing out from the back, flying wing-backs and a double attacking midfield pivot.
Manchester United’s players will be expected to match Ajax’s intensity under Erik ten Hag
Ten Hag may try to partner United outcast Donny van de Beek with Bruno Fernandes there but in the intensity of the Premier League, they’ll need a tireless No 6 behind. Someone like West Ham’s Declan Rice, maybe.
Jurrien Timber, only 20, looked an assured presence at the heart of the Ajax defence and it’s little wonder he’s being linked with United already.
His speed to the ball and positioning could support Harry Maguire at the back.