OWhen Erik ten Hag was appointed head coach of Bayern Munich II, he quickly fell out with the team’s striker. Kevin Friesenbichler grew frustrated with being left out of the team until he was able to meet Ten Hag’s exacting standards.
The Dutchman, who will take charge of his Manchester United opener against Brighton on Sunday, had to make it very clear what he needed from his players so that they would fit into his squad and not disrupt the dressing room.
“We had some small differences of opinion – as player and manager – but after a few months it was fine,” Friesenbichler said. “We had a very good relationship. If he wants to tell you something, if he wants to show you something tactical, he can tell everyone to fully understand exactly what he wants.
Friesenbichler had his best season as Bayern II finished top of the league in 2013-14, scoring 15 goals in 22 games under Ten Hag, and they almost reunited in Utrecht, such was the bond between them.
Ten Hag has prioritized signing players who understand how he works, whether it’s Lisandro Martínez who played under him at Ajax, or Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia, who were both educated in the Netherlands. The trio will be important in the locker room to help his teammates get up to speed.
They are the club’s only signings so far in this window and there is no doubt that Ten Hag would like more. But he’s a man who prides himself on improving individuals – that’s the Ajax way. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were two of the players who fell short of their potential last season, struggling after the Euros disappointment to show their true colors in a turbulent campaign. Ten Hag will have to rebuild them.
“Don’t look back, look forward,” says Ten Hag. “I see the potential of many players in this team and I’m confident that we can develop them. First, develop the team, then the individuals will develop. Now you have to look forward because you don’t Can’t change the past; you can change the future.
It will be an evolutionary process. United fans and players need to relieve themselves of the burden that previous successes have placed on the club. Ten Hag has proven to be someone who wants to play exciting, attacking football, but he is also a pragmatist and knows United cannot go from sixth place to title contention in the space of 12 months. .
“You want to win and you want to win in some way; so proactive, brave, adventurous and I think that’s part of the Manchester United culture and we want to incorporate that,” he said. “But if you can’t win in a good way, in an entertaining way, you still have to win. It’s the mentality, the attitude that we bring.
Fans are optimistic at Old Trafford but we will have to be patient. United lost four and made five at home last season, statistics that cannot be repeated if they are to move up the ranks. They will have to fight in matches, on a ground that has lost its sense of worry and fear for opponents, if they are to make Old Trafford intimidating once again.
“Me, technical staff, players, we must do everything to bring success back to the field because everything starts on the field,” explains Ten Hag. “Every day on the training ground, bring the maximum you can and then you will develop as an individual and strengthen the team.”
The fans will also play their part. “I think it’s clear that this stadium is meant to provoke a fight. I hope for good cooperation [from the fans]says Ten Hag. “But we have to lead by example on the pitch. If we have the right attitude – and by that I mean work hard and be brave – then the fans will love it and it will bring the fight back.
Even at the elite level improvement is not instantaneous, individuals need time to thrive in a changing work environment under a new coach with new ideas, but Ten Hag is a man with the good concepts for spotting weaknesses and developing players to maximize potential.
“There will be setbacks and disappointments and we will have to deal with them,” he said. “I know because that’s life – a sporting life. Every club, every team and every fan has to deal with it. This is the attitude we all need. When you show it and have a good plan, you will eventually succeed. I’m 100% sure.”
Players and United fans will have to believe that Ten Hag’s plan is the right one, even if it takes time to bear fruit.