Ajax boss Erik ten Hag left Manchester United chiefs STUNNED as he ‘ripped the Red Devils apart’- savaging their recruitment, scouting and entire set-up when they flew to Holland for talks.
Erik ten Hag reportedly left Manchester United chiefs shocked as he ‘ripped the club apart’ in a frank assessment during his interview for the Red Devils’ managerial position.
The Ajax manager verbally agreed earlier this week to take over at Old Trafford this summer, replacing interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who is expected to ‘move upstairs’ into a consultancy role.
Technical director Darren Fletcher and football director John Murtough reportedly flew out to Amsterdam to interview the Dutchman for the managerial vacancy at Old Trafford last month.
The 52-year-old is said to have given the United bosses a dressing down as he laid the club’s issues bare during the meeting.
A source at the club told The Sun: ‘It was like United were being interviewed by Ten Hag rather than the other way round.’
He reportedly tore the club’s set-up apart, directing his criticism mainly at United’s scouting and recruitment policy.
The Red Devils have spent around £1billion on new players since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013 but are about to go a fifth season without silverware.
Ten Hag does not want the overall power that the likes of former managers Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho desired at the club but he did make it clear that behind the scenes the club’s set-up needs a shake up.
Fletcher and Murtough were said to return to Manchester shocked before chief executive Richard Arnold made the trip to the Netherlands to hold one-on-one meetings with Ten Hag.
Despite their initial shock, the United bosses were not thought to be put out by Ten Hag’s blunt assessment and instead were impressed by his brutal honesty.
Ahead of travelling out to Amsterdam, United had already made Ten Hag their priority candidate, according to the report.
The Ajax manager beat out a reported shortlist of eight managers for the job, including Mauricio Pochettino.
According to ESPN, United briefly considered Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers before their form nose-dived, and were keen on Pochettino, but were worried Real Madrid would poach the Paris Saint-Germainboss from under their noses.
The interview with the former Tottenham manager reportedly took place over Zoom and did not go well.
The Argentine is said to have revealed how many players he was willing to release from Old Trafford and spoke about how much it would cost to overhaul the squad.
PSG were also said to be demanding a substantial release fee, despite looking likely to sack the manager anyway, compared to Ajax who are willing to let Ten Hag leave for around £2million.
Alongside Ten Hag and Pochettino, ESPN also state the final four-man shortlist included Spain boss Luis Enrique and Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui.
The other four considered after the sacking of Rangnick’s predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November are said to be Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann, Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel, Rodgers and former Real Madrid chief Zinedine Zidane.
However, Nagelsmann – who became the most expensive managerial transfer ever when he moved from RB Leipzig for £22m in July – and Tuchel, manager of United’s rivals Chelsea, were quickly dismissed as realistic options.
When Solskjaer was sacked, free agent Antonio Conte was reportedly ruled out because of his demanding approach, while initial favourites Pochettino and Rodgers were ruled out because of their contract situation and poor club form respectively.
Zidane was an option before apparently indicating he would only return to club football with PSG, while Enrique is busy preparing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in November and there were fears Lopetegui would be ‘another Unai Emery’.
Tuchel was also considered but ruled out leaving Chelsea in the wake of owner Roman Abramovich selling the club following government sanctions due to links with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is leading an invasion of Ukraine.
Ten Hag’s philosophy has been heavily influenced by his mentor and former youth-team coach Epi Drost, who died of a heart attack aged 49 in 1995.
His career has also been shaped by the misfortune of three of his friends. Firstly, he lost his friend Andy Scharmin in a plane crash en route to a charity tournament in Suriname.
Later, Gino Weber, his friend and former youth team-mate at Twente, committed suicide at the age of 33 after his career had been derailed by injuries.
Another member of Twente’s youth-team squad, Wilfried Elzinga, saw his career cruelly cut short by injury.
Those close to Ten Hag believe the 52-year-old has been driven to succeed by his friends’ misfortune, as if determined to seize the opportunities they never had.
Ten Hag rejected the chance to join his brothers in the family’s business, and instead had a modest playing career in his home country as a centre back before excelling as a coach.
‘I often think back to my youth at Twente,’ said Ten Hag. ‘Three boys were so good they could have made it to the national team. But one of them was seriously injured and two other boys died young. It puts everything into perspective.
‘Epi Drost was my idol. He was a fan of adventurous football. He stimulated creativity, because that was the most important thing to him. Epi died due to a cardiac arrest during a match. That was a massive blow for me.’