DEEP DIVE INTO ERIK TEN HAG'S ASSISTANT COACHES

New Manchester United Manager Erik ten Hag was joined by his assistants at the Man United vs Crystal Palace game over the weekend. Let's take a look at who they are and what their backgrounds look like.

Mitchell van der Gaag:

The former Centre-back started his managerial career back in 2008. After starting in Portugal and Cyprus, Van der Gaag recently worked for various Dutch clubs, before being appointed as Ajax reserves coach in 2019.


Erik ten Hag promoted him to Assistant Manager in the summer of 2021 and has been an important part of the coaching staff which has masterminded a fantastic season, winning the Eredivisie title with 98 goal scored and 19 conceded all season. A +79 goal difference in comparison with 2nd place's +44 and 4th place's +18.


Van der Gaag has played a key role in Ajax’s defensive resilience, as the coach is a master defence organiser who is known for forging close-fisted defences. During his time as Excelsior manager from 2016 to 2018, the Dutch club were notoriously hard to break down and at one stage had the best Expected Goals against in the division.


His work with young players also makes him ideal for United.

He gave an insight into his philosophy in an interview during the 2020/2021 season.

He said: “We want to dominate for longer periods of the game and be dominant. We have to constantly pay attention to the field occupation, runs in the depth and the occupation in front of the goal. The players like to have the ball on their feet, so we have to constantly pay attention there.”

He tends to focus his football philosophy on control and domination of ball possession. He is known to be a coach who poses importance on an organised defensive structure as well as man-management.


It had also been reported that he speaks fluently seven languages which will definitely be a big advantage with the polyglot environment at United which consists of English, Spanish, French, Portuguese-Brazilian and Swedish.

 

Steve McClaren:

Despite the fanbase having some doubts about this one because of his unimpressive first team managerial career, Steve McClaren has been very succesful as an assistent coach.

The hugely experienced coach was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant for the glorious Treble campaign. United have also won the Premier League Title in each of McClaren’s three seasons as Sir Alex’s assistant manager.

He left Old Trafford in 2001 to take on his first managerial role at Middlesbrough and proved to be a huge success, securing the club’s first ever major honour, the 2004 League Cup, as well as leading them to the Europa League final in 2006, and the club’s highest top-flight finish in 30 years. He left to sign as England's Manager, a role he left after 16 months when he was sacked after failing to qualify for the 2008 EURO.


Next up for McClaren was a move to Dutch football, when he was announced as manager of Eredivisie side Twente in 2008. And it was at Twente that McClaren began his relationship with Erik ten Hag. He appointed him as his first assistant manager, and was immediately impressed by the young Dutchman. McClaren said: “I thought I worked hard until I met Erik. His great strength lies not just in his attention to detail and organisation. He has a clear philosophy of how he wants to play football and the environment he wants to create.”


They guided Twente to a second place finish in his debut season as well as reaching the Dutch Cup final and the knockout stages of the Europa League.

After a successful first season in the Netherlands for McClaren, glory was to soon follow. In 2009/2010, he led Twente to the first Eredivisie title in their history, defeating Ajax by just one point.


Steve McClaren will mainly be involved in the MUFC project because of his knowledge of English football, the contacts with managers, directors and players. Ten Hag thinks it is wise that he has someone on his staff who knows the culture of the club.

 

It has been confirmed be journalist Chris Wheeler that the two will also be joined by another assistant coach who is unknown yet.

Mike Phelan and Ralf Rangnick's backroom staff which includes Ewan Sharp, Sascha Lense and Chris Armas, will leave the MUFC coaching team as part of a reshuffle, which leaves plenty of room for more staff to arrive which is in progress. Set piece coach Eric Ramsey will remain at the club after impressing the Manager with his abilities.

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