Erik ten Hag seems to know what he wants from his players. It’s clear that the former Ajax manager is tactically astute, but will he be able to get his message across to the team when the season begins in August?
That was always a concern for Manchester United fans when the board started looking for a new manager. Some people liked Mauricio Pochettino, but Ten Hag was a clear favourite on all the polls.
We’ve seen good managers come and go while the players continued to underperform.
Following Ten Hag’s appointment, however, I was cautiously optimistic.
Now, I can’t hide that I’m extremely encouraged by the way he has carried himself as manager a month into the job.
It is another measure of progress that Ten Hag’s focus isn’t about making everyone happy at the club and putting smiles back on faces. He is point blank telling them what they must do in his team while they’re winning football matches convincingly.
“If we can, we do it high on the pitch. But if we can’t, we have to do that in a lower block.
“But also we have to press and we have to together, as a team.”
Ten Hag was then asked a follow up question about how his players can improved ahead of the new season, despite winning three games from three on pre-season tour.
He said: “The timing, when you start the press, for instance. I see still switches we can avoid and we can prepare a better press.
“And I think also on the ball. We play well, but you can see in the end when it’s two, three-nil up, the belief is increasing.
“Also on the ball, we can delay and we can postpone and we can invite opponents so that they come out and then speed up.
“I think especially 2-0 was a great goal.”
Ten Hag is also keen to see his attacking players maintain their form when the Premier League season gets underway, which could be a hint that we’ll see a lot Anthony Martial, who has scored in all pre-season games this summer.
“I hope we can convince them,” Ten Hag added. “They do a lot of work, a lot of running and you see often with offense players that they miss that, that is what they think, in offense the energy.
“But you see they put a lot of energy in defence and they get rewarded by scoring goals because we’re winning balls high up the pitch.
“No opponent likes to get beyond the press in a defending line. I think it’s a big advantage when you can do that, but you need the whole team.”
This is a pleasant change and I hope it continues. The players should welcome it as a much needed wake-up call.
Long may the winning run continue!