Question marks hang over Man Utd as ten Hag prepares to sign his deal

Erik ten Hag will put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal at Man United this week as work continues on assembling the Dutchman’s backroom staff… but he is UNSURE if he will keep hat-trick hero Cristiano Ronaldo with a major rebuild on the horizon

  • Eric ten Hag will be announced as manager sometime after his Ajax side’s Dutch Cup Final against PSV
  • Questions remain over who will join his staff and the status of various high-profile players
  • Steve McClaren, assistant for a period under Sir Alex Ferguson, is not expected to join the Dutchman’s staff 

Erik ten Hag will sign his new four-year deal with Manchester United this week with final details being completed as he prepares Ajax for the Dutch FA Cup final against PSV Eindhoven today.

The search for a suitable back-room team to support him will intensify this week with Rene Meulensteen, United coach under Sir Alex Ferguson, the latest to be linked with a role.

Ten Hag is expected to bring his Ajax assistant Mitchell van der Gaag but also wants another assistant who knows the club well, with Robin van Persie having also been offered a job, but likely to stay in Holland at Feyenoord because of family commitments.

Erik ten Hag will put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal to join the Manchester club from Ajax

Steve McClaren who was involved in early talks with Ten Hag having worked with him at FC Twente, is not now expected to take up a place.

With five games left of the Dutch season — Ajax are four point clear of PSV at the top — Ten Hag is unlikely to comment on his new job until the season is over and has been tetchy in exchanges with Dutch journalists who persist in bringing up the issue.

Ten Hag will to be involved in the decision on the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, who has one more year left on his deal. Despite his hat-trick yesterday, some at the club feel he should be encouraged to leave as he will be unsuited to the pressing style Ten Hag wishes to impose, though Ten Hag himself has yet to decide

Ten Hag has found a place for less energetic players in his team, with Dusan Tadic having been a key man at Ajax, so it is possible he will accommodate the former World Player of the Year. 

Eric ten Hag will be advised about Cristiano Ronaldo’s issues with some other members of the Man Utd squad

However, he will be advised that Ronaldo’s unique personality and demands haven’t endeared him to all of his United team-mates and will have to decide whether ditching Ronaldo would help ease tension and make for a more straightforward inaugural season. With Edinson Cavani leaving and Mason Greenwood unavailable after being arrested and bailed on suspicion of rape and assault, Ten Hag will need a new centre forward whatever he decides on Ronaldo.

Ten Hag will also need to start a major rebuild of the midfield with Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata all leaving, and with Andreas Pereira also expected to go. 

Donny van de Beek, who starred under Ten Hag with Ajax but has flopped at United and is currently on loan at Everton, will be given a chance to rehabilitate himself but inevitably United will be linked with moves for Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. Borussia Dortmund are unlikely to sell Jude Bellingham this summer.

Question marks hang over the futures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba

The assurances Ten Hag asked for last week over the direction of the squad have been met by United. Ten Hag is happy to work with Director of Football John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher on transfers but wanted to be clear that his tactical needs would be addressed in recruitment. 

That said, Ten Hag is a training ground coach who is confident that his work on tactics and shape can bring immediate improvements to United. His issues were not over demanding lavish spending but more a case of ensuring priorities were aligned.

Some in Holland are concerned that Ten Hag’s eccentric English may be an issue. He was widely mocked for his accent and limited linguistic skills by Dutch fans when conducting interviews in English in the past, though he has worked to improve them. 

In Holland, his eastern Dutch accent has also been used against him by Amsterdam critics and he was portrayed by satirists as provincial and unsophisticated in his early Ajax days, though he has won most over most with his achievements.

Most Dutch observers have been impressed with his ability to maintain the level of the team despite losing key players every season. Tan Hag has found solutions with players such as Tadic, Steven Berghuis and Davy Klaassen after they had struggled in the Premier League and has worked with former sporting director Marc Overmars to manage budgets carefully.

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