Leon ten Voorde has been a lifelong friend of soon-to-be Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag. He has suggested that despite the task at hand being a big one at a club that has just been humiliated against their biggest rivals twice in one season, the rebuild that United need to go through is “tailor-made” for the Dutchman.
In an interesting and insightful interview with Dutch outlet Algemeen Dagblad, Ten Voorde, who is still in touch with the man he’s known since he was four, revealed all you’d want to know about the incoming manager.
Importantly, he detailed how he deals with the squad in-house. It will be a difficult task to handle some of the players in United’s team — with dressing rooms leaks of unhappiness being a regular occurrence this season.
“One of his qualities is managing a dressing room. He can also handle the so-called difficult characters.” Ten Voorde explained. “He has always had those guys in line and they are all positive. Also at Ajax, he first had to overcome scepticism but in the end, he succeeds.
“He is clearly the boss, but at the same time also social and knows everything about the players. And no one knows if the locker room will be toxic next season as well. Wait and see what will happen in the transfer area.”
He adds that Ten Hag’s opinion has always held weight wherever he goes. Something that he has wanted to ensure through his interviews with the club.
The man-in-charge at Dutch league leaders Ajax has demonstrated his ability to strip down and squad and start again. In 2019 he lost vital players in Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, as well as the likes of Kasper Dolberg and Maximilian Wöber. However he was able to reassemble a strong squad which has been playing wondering football this season.
“Where Erik works, he always has an important voice in a lot. He is never just a trainer,” Ten Voorde explains. “He is a trainer who clearly knows what he wants. He never lets himself be led by the outside world and imperturbably goes his own way
“My personal opinion: When United come after four-and-a-half years of Ajax, you don’t say no easily. Moreover, such a job is tailor-made for him. Building a club.
“He likes attacking football, and players who fit into it. He always looks at the material and adjusts the playing style accordingly. He played differently at FC Utrecht than at Ajax.”
One major change that the Dutchman will encounter when he comes to England is the scrutiny that he’ll inevitably receive in his tenure at the club.
Pep Guardiola has assembled one of the best footballing teams the Premier League has ever seen at Manchester City, but that has not stopped the same negative inspections come his way. No one can escape it.
With United, this attention is magnified more than any other club in the country. While Ten Voorde admits that this is not the same at Ajax for the manager, he will remain to be the same character.
“He is always himself. Not a man who will seek the spotlight,” he says. “It [media scrutiny] is part of it. The English media landscape cannot be compared with the Netherlands. We stick to the game itself.“
Then, he dispels the myth that Ten Hag cannot speak the language well: “In Holland, we can speak English. Erik is not Bielsa.”