Scrutiny, drama, pressure, wins, losses and one of the biggest stars in the world wanting to leave. Erik ten Hag has experienced it all in his first three months as Manchester United manager.
That should go some way to preparing him for one of the Premier League’s flagship events which once again promises to be a huge success.
Like so many, Ten Hag was captivated by those epic 2000s encounters between Manchester United and Arsenal, which are live. Sky Sports activated super sunday
“The best games, a great history between the two clubs, both with incredibly good players and good managers, but now it’s about Sunday, it’s new, we have to build a future,” says Ten Hag. Sky Sports News.
So who was he cheering for during those days?
“My team in England was always Manchester United, I always supported this club, from the past I loved watching (David) Beckham, (Paul) Scholes, (Rio) Ferdinand and (Ryan) Giggs, I always “they liked it”.
And if I had to choose just one. Would it be Team Vieira or Team Keane? He laughs. “That’s clear, there’s no doubt about it. Keane.”
No real surprise, then, where his loyalties lie when it comes to the manager. “What (Arsene) Wenger did at Arsenal was great, his philosophy I really respect, but Fergie built all that.”
Sir Alex Ferguson’s shadow still looms large, but Ten Hag will not let it define his time at this football club.
“I speak with him, and we are happy with it, his advisers too, we are grateful but now we have to build a new future, that is also clear,” said the Dutchman.
Recent weeks have given him an indication of how intense the scrutiny will be as he rebuilds the club. “Have you enjoyed your first 100 days or so?” I ask. “Is it everything you dreamed of?”
He smiles: “I’m not that much of a dreamer, I’m more of a reality, and I knew it was a big challenge and hard work. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t noticed that 100 days have passed, but that’s a good sign.
“What I’m doing is a football process. I love managing it on and off the pitch. I really enjoy it, it excites me and it challenges me and it’s good to have this experience.”
Process is a word that comes up a lot during our interview – defined as “a series of actions taken in order to achieve”, and Ten Hag has already dealt in the action department. He dropped his captain Harry Maguire and made it clear to Cristiano Ronaldo that he must fit into his vision for the club and not the other way around.
“I have emotion when I make decisions, I use intuition and feelings, but they have to be rational and strategic if you want to go in the direction Manchester United want to go, and we all have to be on the same page,” he said. . said
“I have to be clinical and ask what is best for the club and the team and what is the process and to improve. I have to be transparent and clear and communicate.”
I ask him how this message has been received and if he would be concerned about using it in the big games.
“He showed it last year and it hasn’t been long, so now he has to fit into the way we play, if he does, he will decide games because of his abilities.”
Ronaldo is just one of the irresistible subplots this match often brings up. Another is whether Antony, who finally arrived from Ajax to reunite with his former manager this week for a fee of £86m, will start and, along with that, begin to show he can live with the pressure of being one of United and the Premier League. the most expensive signings.
Ten Hag has no doubts. “He can handle it. He lives for football and he enjoys it. He has already shown that he has been in the Champions League, in the Brazilian national team and an Olympic gold medal.
“He will bring temperament and creativity. It’s a new start for him too and he has to adapt to the team, the Premier League and the high intensity, but I’m sure he will adapt.”
Antony, along with another former Ajax man, Lisandro Martinez, was part of a £200m-plus summer spending spree by Ten Hag as he looks to build his squad in a very different way to he modeled at Ajax.
Do you feel pressured considering the money spent? How did it feel to spend over £200 million? “It’s a lot of money,” he admits, but points out the process again. “It is part of that and we have to do to remain competitive. Now we have a squad with potential with good players and now we have to make a team.”
This team can feature another one of those new faces on Sunday in Casemiro from the start. Is he ready to be offloaded at Arsenal? “I think so,” says Ten Hag. “He’s used to playing big games.”
This is exactly what it promises. Ten Hag know how tough the opponents will be as Arsenal, enjoying a renaissance with five wins from five in the league this season travel to Old Trafford.
Unlike some of these classic battles, there is no title on the line, but both Ten Hag and Mikel Arteta will know a lot more about where their rebuilding squads stand on Sunday evening.
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