At the end of the 2021/22 season, the 52-year-old Dutchman will become manager of Manchester United as the Reds look towards a bright future under the direction of one of the most exciting coaches in the game. The evolution in Ten Hag’s reputation has been meticulous, mirroring a rise which has been methodical rather than meteoric. A sharp, ball-playing central defender in his playing days, Erik spent the majority of his career spread across three stints with FC Twente, with whom he won the KNVB Cup in 2001.
There, he frequently crossed paths with then-Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, learning his trade for two years before returning to the Eredivisie, where he galvanised unfashionable FC Utrecht and led them to Europa League qualification. When Ajax relieved Marcel Keizer of the head coach’s role in December 2017, Erik’s impressive body of work convinced them to make him their new appointment and the decision was spectacularly validated in the years that followed.
Ajax have also made their mark on the Champions League under Erik’s management. His first season in charge was stupefying as his swashbuckling young Ajax stormed to the semi-finals, swatting aside established superpowers Real Madrid and Juventus, before a last-second away-goals defeat to Tottenham in Amsterdam denied the Dutch giants their first final since 1996.
Ten Hag arrives at Old Trafford with a mass of silverware to show for his work at the Johan Cruyff Arena. While that kind of success is a key aspect of his appeal, just as enticing is the prospect of replicating his vision for Ajax.