New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag made an unconventional decision in his managerial career when he left his management role at Go Ahead Eagles to work as a youth coach at Bayern Munich, however he claimed that the experiences, such as working under Pep Guardiola, was “like winning the lottery” and stresses the importance that the role played in his career.
It was only earlier this month where Pep Guardiola, now manager of Manchester City, was asked about his former colleague. He spoke well about the Dutchman: “He is just an incredible person and human being. I was surprised at how humble he was.” The City manager said. “For his qualities, just take a look at his Ajax team in the last years. It is a joy to watch.”
While his usual play is to kill his opponents with kindness, there is no doubt that there is a real respect between Pep and Erik, which we will certainly see in the years coming.
Ten Hag finished his first campaign of management with Go Ahead Eagles in 2013, he had got them promoted to the Dutch first division for the first time since 1996. However, he decided to leave the club as the manager and move into a less important role as a youth coach at one of the biggest clubs in world football – Bayern Munich.
Yet, the decision is certainly not one that the 52-year-old regrets. He relished the opportunity to work under the stewardship of one of the best managers in world football, he was able to share the training pitch with Guardiola and the first-team as it was before the club had built their latest training complex, and also learnt a number of things during his time at the club.
Speaking to Sports Bild in 2018, Ten Hag said: “That time was enormously valuable for me. I remember it well. Many people in Holland shook their heads when I left the Eredivisie for the Regionalliga,”
“I never regretted the decision,” Ten Hag insisted when asked about his years at the German club. “Working for a club as big as Bayern with such formative personalities as Pep Guardiola and also Matthias Sammer was like winning the lottery.
When working under one of the best minds in the game, it’s almost certain that it will have an influence on a managers system. This was the case with Erik ten Hag and how he looked to build his team at Ajax over the years.
“I learnt a lot from Guardiola,” the Dutch manager said in 2019. “His philosophy is sensational, what he did in Barcelona, Bayern and now with Manchester City, that attacking and attractive style sees him win a lot. It’s this structure that I’ve tried to implement with Ajax.”
While their methods are of course not identical, Ten Hag has built two extremely strong teams during his time in Amsterdam. His philosophy could help turn United around as they currently sit as a mediocre side in a league that Guardiola’s side — alongside Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool — are dominating.
For the Manchester United fans that rue the missed chance of signing Pep Guardiola as manager before his own move to Germany, they will be hoping that his understudy during his time at Die Roten will be able to have a similar impact at Old Trafford to the one that was made on the other side of the city.