Without even hesitating for a moment, Erik ten Hag says with absolute certainty: “I am convinced that I will do it – I have done it everywhere.”
The new Manchester United manager was answering a question about how much time he needed to bring back the glory days at Old Trafford and his answer echoed the one Jurgen Klopp gave in his first press conference after being named manager from Liverpool seven years ago.
On that occasion, the German raised eyebrows when he predicted: “If I sit here in four years, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a title.”
Klopp, who took over a side languishing in 10th place in the Premier League, was wrong, but only at 12 months.
But will Ten Hag – who won three Eredivisie titles, including two league and cup doubles in four full seasons as Ajax boss – get such a time at United?
“I can’t ask the fans to be patient – I hope they will be – because they want to see a winning team and that’s why I’m here, but I have to produce it,” he said. he stated when we sat down to discuss his team. start the new season. “But the process takes time, that’s how it is.”
It’s five days after United won a 2-1 home defeat to Brighton – the Seagulls’ first-ever win at Old Trafford – to kick off Ten Hag’s reign, although thankfully the Dutchman enforces a ‘rule of rules’. 24 hours – you celebrate, or moan, after that you move on”.
There were plenty of things that still appealed to the new man even in defeat, including his side’s response to falling 2-0 in the first half and the way they improved on the ball in second half, while the source of the goal that gave United hopes of a comeback also gave him encouragement.
“The goal we score, last season we weren’t so good at set pieces, so we score a goal from set pieces and that’s really positive,” he said.
I can’t ask the fans to be patient – I hope they will – because they want to see a winning team and that’s why I’m here, but I have to produce it
At the same time, however, there were clearly a lot of things that Ten Hag worried about.
“A lot (was wrong with the posting) that’s clear,” he said. “It starts with the result of course, but also with the performance, in many ways we weren’t good. But it’s completely normal at the start of the season when you have to come together and when you want to find a way to play.
“We did pretty well in pre-season, but now you’re still two players short against a good team and we need to perform better.”
However, Ten Hag insisted his new charges weren’t suffering from a lack of confidence after a number of years lying fallow, rather it was individual mistakes that cost them dearly against Brighton.
“I didn’t see it, we were confident in the pre-season, the good pressing and the decisions, but that was clearly not the case in the first half against Brighton, when we obviously made mistakes and they punished us,” he said.
“You have to be strong mentally at the start of the season because you will make mistakes.”
Ten Hag, 52, hopes that sloppy first half at Old Trafford last weekend was unique as he prepares to bring his side to the capital for his first away trip as boss of United.
But he is also well aware of the challenge that awaits him and his players in west London on Saturday night against a Brentford side who scored three times against Liverpool and only narrowly lost to the winners of the title Manchester City and then-European champions Chelsea at home last season.
“They’re a physical, strong, well-organized team that play straight, so we’ll have to be good,” the United manager explained. Saturday night football clash at Brentford, one in which Anthony Martial will not feature due to injury, but Cristiano Ronaldo could after the Portuguese striker ‘has improved physically’.
And while we could see a change in personnel on Saturday, there could also be a line-up tweak as Ten Hag reflects on the start of the game as he started the second half against Brighton, with Christian Eriksen deployed in a deeper midfield role as opposed to a fake No 9.
“Christian is a multi-functional player who can impact different areas of the game,” he explained of the versatile Denmark international, who will face his former club this weekend. “So he can play deeper, but also very high and either way he can have a good impact, that’s what I expect from him.”
Regardless of his line-up or formation at Gtech Community Stadium, however, Ten Hag – who hails from practical coaching school Pep Guardiola – expects United to improve as players heed his instructions specific and begin to understand exactly how he wants. that they play.
It’s a big challenge and we knew it before. It takes time, but in football you don’t have time and that’s what makes it such a big challenge
“It takes time to get cooperation,” he said, “they know their job, but top sport is a game of speed, we have to make quick decisions and they have to be connected – and that takes time.”
Would bringing in more players before the transfer window closes on September 1 speed up the assimilation process?
“We definitely need more players going into the season, that’s for sure, we need a stronger team in midfield and attacking departments,” Ten Hag said on his current strength. deep team.
“As you saw last week when Martial was out, we didn’t have a good replacement and then we struggled,” he added. “So you need that (team) depth when you have injuries and games every three days and players aren’t recovered to play the next game.”
Ten Hag, perhaps reasonably, would not be drawn to what constitutes United’s success in his first campaign at the helm, instead offering that much-heard sporting mantra of taking every game as it comes: “Short term, we have to win every game and get into the season and go from game to game.”
However, looking further ahead, the former Ajax head coach has acknowledged the scale of the task facing him and his coaching staff at Old Trafford.
“It’s a big challenge and we knew that before,” he said. “It takes time, but in football you don’t have time and that’s what makes it such a big challenge.
“It’s been 10 years (since United last won the league) and success comes fast, but getting it back takes a long time and it takes a lot of work, a good strategy, the right people and that’s what it’s about. what we work on day to day.”
Starting in Brentford on Saturday night…