Manchester United seem to be at a crossroads with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The United manager’s time at the helm may well be about to be curtailed, with various reports suggesting the club are sounding out potential successors.
One name that’s kept popping up in all the possible replacement discourse is current Ajax manager Erik ten Hag, with many United fans of the belief he could be the man to bring the good times back to Old Trafford.
However, United have to be very careful.
There is no doubt that Ten Hag has been a good manager at Ajax. Fans have seen him nurture and get the best out of the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech, with two Eredivisie titles since his appointment in December 2017 a handsome return.
Guiding Ajax to the 2018/19 Champions League semi-final is arguably his best achievement at the club, but there are also a number of points to be stacked in the ‘cons column’ when considering whether he would be a good fit at United.
A big negative trait of Ten Hag’s is that he is not particularly media savvy. The Ajax boss lacks charisma and can struggle with his English at times, meaning he’s constantly mocked by Dutch football television show Veronica Inside for his bumbling interviews.
While managers should definitely not be mocked for their struggles with other languages – especially when the majority of people mocking them can’t speak a second language themselves – it happens all too often in the Premier League.
Mauricio Pochettino was renowned for his poor grasp of the English language when he first joined Southampton and was occasionally mocked because of it.
Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery also suffered a similar fate but to a much worse degree.
All it took was one use of the phrase “good ebening” for Emery to become an overnight meme sensation in European football, with even Arsenal players mocking the Spaniard in training sessions by the end of his Gunners tenure.
United have always had managers who could cope with the pressure of the media. Sir Alex Ferguson always had a presence about him whenever he had a microphone shoved in front of his face (even if he did ban the media for years), Louis van Gaal was always great for a soundbite and Jose Mourinho seemed to crave the attention of the media.
Even Solskjaer has navigated his way around the media, probably due to the fact he had to deal with them as a player at such an elite club.
Ten Hag may not adapt so easily and when you become a footballing meme it can be a hard tag to brush off.
Emery was relatively successful at Arsenal, finishing in fifth place and reaching the final of the Europa League in his only full season at the Emirates Stadium, but the “good ebening” meme will forever be how he’s remembered in England despite his stellar efforts since moving to Villarreal.
Maybe if Ten Hag is appointed he could take a leaf out of Marcelo Bielsa’s book. Even though it causes the odd joke to be made at his expense, having a translator by him at all times have stopped the sharks of social media circling him and mocking his poor English.
Even if Ten Hag were to perfectly grasp the England language within months of arriving at United, there would still be questions marks over his appointment.
Frank de Boer spent over five years as Ajax boss, walking away with a brimming winner’s medal collection, though his subsequent spells with Inter Milan and Premier League outfit Crystal Palace left a lot to be desired.
Peter Bosz has also struggled ever since leaving Ajax with tumultuous stints at Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, while Marcel Keizer has arguably done even worse since leaving the Amsterdam giants.
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Could Ten Hag be the next to be added to the list?
His tactical nous proves he has the potential to be a great manager, but in my opinion, Ten Hag isn’t the man for us – in a few years perhaps but he needs more experience before moving to a club like United.
His lack of charisma and struggles with the media doesn’t help, but the big question for me is can he really manage a top team or is he just being made to look like a top manager because the rest of the Eredivisie can’t keep up with Ajax?
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