Manchester United decided to be slow and steady in replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their manager earlier this season. But if they had taken the same approach when finding a new CEO then they could have been able to bring in a formidable partnership that appear ready-made for the roles – Erik ten Hag and Edwin van der Sar.
Ten Hag is edging closer to being appointed as the new Red Devils boss, with the way he has made two Ajax sides that were competitive in all competitions with a low budget impressing. But it wasn’t just the 52-year-old behind that side.
Speaking in 2019, Ajax CEO Van der Sar revealed the conversations that he had with the younger players at Ajax that inspired them to develop into the side that ran riot in the Champions League. Speaking of individual meetings he held with players – such as Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek, he told The Guardian: “We said: ‘If you want to be a legend of Ajax you need to win something big’. In my eyes, it was really inspirational.
“They had faith in the club, we needed to talk to the younger players: ‘Wait for us. Believe in us. We are going to make sure there is a team that is going to challenge.’ It has worked miracles for us.” Those individuals became vital players in the team and many have been sold for significant fees after showing plenty of potential in the Eredivisie.
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If United had been patient in finding their successor for ex-CEO Ed Woodward rather than almost instantly promoting Richard Arnold into the role then the club could have been able to have some fresh faces in the club that were experienced in major rebuilds. Van der Sar’s six-year spell at Old Trafford could have been persuasive, especially if he knew Ten Hag was leaving for the club as well.
Arnold is yet to prove whether he is the right/wrong man to spearhead United from the top of the club, but he certainly has an almighty task on his hands. The Daily Mail reported that if the club fail to qualify for the Champions Leagues – which looks unlikely given they are seventh in the table and six points off of the top four – then Ten Hag could have a mere £20million to work with over the summer.
Despite the team needing a major rebuild, the impetus at the Theatre of Dreams could quickly become developing younger players and selling some stars to reinvest in new signings. A similar model to what Van der Sar and Ten Hag had with Ajax.
It has been widely reported that Ten Hag’s interview involved the Dutchman pitching who he would like the club to sign if he did become United manager – with some of his former players being named. Of course, a major decrease in his budget will affect those plans.
United’s strategy in appointing Ten Hag after much deliberation could prove a very wise choice, but a depleting transfer pot could leave them regretting not being patient in their CEO search.