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Erik ten Hag has already outlined what he needs to succeed at Manchester United – George Smith



If you need to know anything about Erik ten Hag, it is that he appears to like things done by the book.

The incoming Manchester United manager enjoyed almost five successful years at Ajax by sticking to a philosophy that everyone within his plan followed to the letter. As Ted Hastings often said in Line of Duty: ‘My officers conduct themselves to the letter of the law. The letter’.

Ten Hag is a big believer in doing the same. He enjoys a structured and uniformed way of working, where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. It is was that sort of structure being in place that led Ajax to scooping their sixth trophy of his tenure last week.

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But to ensure Ten Hag can replicate the level of success he has enjoyed at Ajax at Old Trafford, he is going to need to make sure that everyone, again, is singing from the same hymn sheet, buying into his methods, listening to every word he has to say and taking on board the advice he dishes out. That goes for everyone, not just the players.

But it is the players that will, ultimately, dictate whether or not Ten Hag proves to be a success at United. As Roy Keane correctly predicted in October 2020, the players did ‘throw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under the bus’ and United cannot afford for another manager to be let down by an underperforming group that are not pulling their weight.

This summer, of course, is going to see drastic changes made to the first-team squad. United need to cut out the deadwood and make significant changes, which will start with the expected departures of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani to name just a few.

But all eyes will be on which players come into the club and kick-start the beginning of the Ten Hag era. Rumours and speculation about who could arrive at Old Trafford this summer are already rife, but the character of each individual will prove to be just as important as their footballing ability. United need the right characters and mindsets flooding the Old Trafford home dressing room.

If anything, Ten Hag has already outlined what type of character he likes to have embedded in his squad, hailing the mentality and contributions of Ajax left-back Nicolas Tagliafico following his final game in charge of the Dutch giants on Sunday.

On Tagliafico, Ten Hag said: “A great character, who actually never whines. Of course he was dissatisfied when he didn’t play, but always give one hundred percent in training. When he had to, he was there and that’s important.

“He has fought for the team, fought for Ajax, brought quality and ultimately made a very big contribution to the championship. I think he’s such a great person, who has a lot of great angles. So as a person he is completely okay, but also as a football player he has made a great contribution.

“He has been with me from the beginning to the end. I am extremely grateful to him for the collaboration, but certainly also for what he has delivered for Ajax as a person and as a football player.”

Tagliafico could be the perfect case study for the direction United need to head in with their recruitment this summer. They need players that are prepared to give blood, sweat and tears for the badge, show their pride in playing for a club of the Reds’ stature and leave nothing in the dressing room when trying to put on a show for 75,000 people on a Saturday afternoon.

Talent, skill and flair are, of course, important for any United squad to have. But a team cannot be successful without the right attitude and approach. This season has proved that.

Therefore, United need to tick a lot of boxes when it comes to signing any player this summer. Ten Hag will probably dive deep in trying to unearth information on future signings, purely to ensure that they fit his vision and philosophy.

If anything, Tagliafico could serve as his perfect prototype and blueprint to follow.

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