10 ex-players’ opinion of Erik ten Hag – from "obsessed" to "Cruyff philosophy"

It seems the vast majority of Manchester United fans have got what they want with the appointment of Erik ten Hag as their new manager.

But do they actually know what it is they're getting? While fellow candidate and ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino was a very familiar option, Ten Hag arrives as somewhat of an unknown entity in England.

The Dutchman has slowly risen through the managerial ranks at Go Ahead Eagles, Bayern Munich reserves, FC Utrecht and finally Ajax, making an impression at all along the way. So who better to learn about Ten Hag from than his former players as Daily Star Sport takes a look at the opinion of 10 stars who have worked under him.

Matthijs de Ligt

Before moving to Juventus, De Ligt was Ten Hag's captain as Ajax made massive waves in the Champions League. The defender was full of praise for his boss just a month after his arrival in January 2018.

“Everybody has a new start under Erik ten Hag with a new football vision and opinions and as a squad that can only be good for us in order to continue development in the future,” De Ligt told NOS. "The training is different under Erik ten Hag with a lot of focus on tactical elements and positional play and it is really instructive."

Steven Berghuis

More recently winger Berghuis has been working with the 52-year-old after making the jump from Feyenoord last summer. And although he's 30, he feels Ten Heg has improved his game since then.

“The fact that I have been able to develop myself under Ten Hag in several positions is also satisfying,” said Berghuis. “I was regarded as nothing more than a right winger, but this manager has used my qualities in slightly different positions.

"The coach explains most of what he wants to tell his players on the basis of video material, both in the team analysis and also individually. Everyone receives an explanation about what is being asked and what this manager would like to see in each position.”

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Sjoerd Overgoor

Ten Hag set out his stool right from the off at Go Ahead Eagles if what Overgoor says is true. The former midfielder told Sky Sports: "He wanted the drinks put out in straight lines. Everything had to be perfect in his eyes. People needed time to get used to that.

"We had one man whose job it was to look after the pitch. Every day, Erik would be coming to him and saying that the grass had to be two millimetres or something like that.

"He changed everything. A lot of coaches come to clubs like Eagles and have the attitude that they have to deal with it. He did not deal with it. Instead, he made it better and better."

Dusan Tadic

No one has sung Ten Hag's praises quite like ex-Southampon man Tadic, who has played under him for the last four seasons.

“He is amazing. He is one of the best coaches in the world, without a doubt,” the 33-year-old told The Telegraph. “He is totally obsessed with football, I am sure it is all he thinks about. You need a manager like that if you want to be one of the best clubs.

"That is what he has made Ajax. The thing about him that is so impressive is he always seems to have the solution to a problem when you face an opponent. I think, tactically, he is the master.

"But he is also very good in the way he talks to the players. When you have that combination, it is why he is so good.”

Urby Emanuelson

What impressed left-back Emanuelson about Ten Hag when he was in charge of Utrecht was his rousing team talks, which the current United squad certainly need some of.

He told The Times: “His strength is that he can really convince a team. The things he said before a game often happened during the match.

"Sometimes he would go for dinner with the guys. They could really speak their mind. You go through fire for somebody like him."

Sebastien Haller

Like Tadic, Haller left the Premier League to link up with Ten Hag having been his frontman at Utrecht. Speaking earlier this year, he offered some encouraging words for Red Devils fans.

The former West Ham striker told CNN: “He’s responsible a lot for me coming to Ajax because of course I know him. I know how good he is tactically and he will never let his players just do what they want.

"He always has a good view on the opponent so he gives us the keys to succeed during the game. He’s clever, he knows his strengths but also his weaknesses. I think he’s trying to become better every day, so of course he’s trying to be there for the players, trying to keep everyone involved in the team.”


Andre Onana

While Ralf Rangnick has failed to implement a high press with the United team, Ten Hag could be the man to get them pushing up the pitch with Onana highlighting it as a key philosophy of his.

“When we lose the ball, we must win it back immediately,” the goalkeeper told AFP in May 2019. “He is focused on that, he is always telling us that if we have control of the ball, we have the ability to push back any opponent.”

Willem Janssen

United will be hoping for the turnaround Ten Hag produced at Utrecht, as their current captain Janseen gave an insight of to The Mirror.

“He’s very professional, he’s highly demanding," Janseen began. "He demands everything from a player. He creates a winning environment, every detail is key.

“When he came to Utrecht, the mentality changed. It needed some time, three or four months, before the mentality of all the club and the players changed a lot because of him.

"Also, he expressed his ideas about his football clearly for us as players and it was a very high level. After his arrival, the results improved, we finished fifth, fourth and fifth. For the club, it was a very successful period.”


Ten Hag has lots of work to do on the Carrington training ground when he arrives in the summer. But that's only the same as he's been doing already at Ajax, according to Antony.

“Every player under his guidance becomes a better footballer through his training,” the winger told De Telegraaf. “Since my arrival, he has given me a lot of confidence and believed in what I can do. I am grateful to him for that. I respect him very much.”

Daley Blind

Blind knows all about the environment Ten Hag will be stepping into. The former Red Devils defender, who joined Ajax in 2018, likened him to the legendary Johan Cruyff back in 2019.

“Johan Cruyff’s philosophy and spirit still flows around in this club,” Blind told BT Sport. “Erik ten Hag is doing very well now. He wants us to play attacking football but most of all without any fear.”

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