Ten Hag explains decision to build “right culture” at United

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has taken charge of the club’s reserve team in a bid to monitor and help the progression of the youth players into the senior setup.

His decision again shows how much his beliefs match the law at Old Trafford – prioritizing the youngsters and giving them adequate opportunities to make it in the first team.

Ten Hag has already promoted 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho and his decision has continued to pay off, as the Argentinian rarely puts a foot wrong when on the pitch.

17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo was also included in the matchday squad for the Reds trip to the Molineux yesterday. The tightly contested match meant he didn’t make a cameo off the bench, but would hint that the teenager’s debut is fast approaching.

According to TheMirror, Ten Hag only agreed to take the job as manager if the club agreed to give him “full control” of the Under-23s. The Dutchman makes the final decision on key matters in the squad; team selection, players’ positions and game time.

The report also confirms how the boss oversaw a similar role at Ajax. He said: “For me, cooperation between all the different departments is crucial to get the right culture in a club. Like at Ajax, when I entered Manchester United the reserve team was isolated.

“It was no longer part of the academy, but it wasn’t part of the first team either. I changed that immediately – just as I did when I entered Amsterdam. At Ajax, the reserve team came under the responsibility of the manager. That was the only way I could have influence of the flow of young, talented players towards the first team. Of course, I still give the coaches freedom to work, but I also give them direction, by saying for example ‘I want that player to start making minutes in that position.’

So the final responsibility lies with me about how the second team performs and the flow of players that goes from the reserve team to the first team.”

United’s record of utilizing academy graduates

The Red Devils continue to build on their record of having at least one homegrown talent in every matchday squad since October 1937 – a philosophy that Ten Hag will be keen to extend throughout his time in charge.

He added: “This is totally new for the people at Manchester United, but I had already discussed it during the introductory talks with the club management.

“They were immediately open to it. They looked at Ajax with admiration because of how the club always manages to get youth players successfully through the system. There is a constant influx of talent at Ajax and I explained that’s because the basis of everything at the club is the youth academy. When I was going home from my work at Ajax in the evening, I would often see the under-8s or under-9s training and I would stay to watch.

In the final phase of a player’s academy years and the step up to the first team, it is all about the structure between the academy director, the reserve-team coach and the manager. This is what I mean when I talk about cooperation. I talked to (director of football) John Murtough about this at length before I came to Manchester and he set it up in such a way that I can work this way here too.

In the Netherlands, I had made the step towards taking more of a managerial role at Ajax. If you don’t have competent people around you, you can’t delegate and you’re going to do it all yourself anyway.

“But if you do have competent people, you have to bring them into your vision and then you can delegate tasks. An example is the training process with the senior team. I know this is in good hands with (coach) Mitchell van der Gaag. Because he is at the training sessions, I can often take an overview view. Then, as a manager, you see a lot more than if you are working on the training exercises yourself.”

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