August 04, 2023
Erik ten Hags first conversation with Manchester United players shows why hes succeeding
What do you say to a group of players who are devoid of confidence after enduring the most difficult season of their careers? How do you address a failing culture and restore standards, while simultaneously making people buy into your philosophy? Fortunately, Erik ten Hag had a few months to think about the answers to those genuinely tenure-defining questions before he walked through the doors at Carrington as Manchester United's manager for the first time. ALSO READ: Erik ten Hag has received £364m United backing The first 100 days of any leadership period are vital and Ten Hag was aware of the changes that he'd have to make in just his first few weeks at the club, to ensure the players were on board with his vision and understood it. The players immediately realised who the boss was. There were strict rules implemented and Ten Hag's disciplinarian approach, which gave structure to the dressing room after a trainwreck campaign, was welcomed by the squad. So what did Ten Hag actually say to the players? What was his message? Marcus Rashford has provided insight into working with the Dutchman in an interview with Sky Bet's The Overlap this week and he discussed his influence. “When he came in, I didn’t hear him speak about getting into the top four once, he just wanted to win trophies and he’s got that mentality," Rashford said. "It didn’t matter what competition we were playing in, he wanted to try and win everything. “We gave it everything and let ourselves down in the Europa League, and in the Premier League there was a period where we weren’t defending as well and stopped scoring as many goals as we were – that’s something he’ll [Ten Hag] want to address." Ten Hag wanted to build a winning mentality, which meant aiming for every major honour. He admirably, although sometimes naively, picked his strongest line-up for the bulk of games last season and that sent a message to the players. Rashford added: “We’d always bounce back from disappointing results, there is no lower point than when you go to rival teams and concede four, five, six goals, you have to find the positives, and in the games after, we always had a good performance and won. “When you think about it deeply, there’s nothing better than winning at Manchester United. At the age I’m at, I’ve still got a big opportunity to try and do that. The timing is closer than we think, but we still need to take those extra steps. "At the minute we’ve got a manager that’s fully dedicated to winning at all costs and he wants us to be as best as we can individually and as best as we can be as a team. At the end of the day, he wants us to win trophies." United should be in the Champions League every season. Ten Hag not acknowledging that target to his players and instead insisting they'll contend for trophies in all the competitions set the tone in his very first conversations. That message contributed to the longest trophy drought at the club for over 40 years ended last season. The Carabao Cup was lifted at Wembley in February and even after that triumph, the manager warned against complacency. "It shows something, silverware, that you are on a good pathway, you are in a good direction. It is one cup and it is February, but it shows we are in the right direction," Ten Hag said during his post-Newcastle interview. "This has to be the inspiration, it has to be the motivation to keep going, to improve. OK, be happy for 24 hours but not satisfied because satisfaction leads to laziness and when you become lazy, you don’t win and you can’t win trophies." Those comments at Wembley earned Ten Hag comparisons to Sir Alex Ferguson, who he'd dined with just a week before. Ferguson always insisted on taking one game at a time and he once famously described complacency as a disease. Manchester United managers must win trophies and Ten Hag is giving the club the best possible chance of that. His first season was a success, but he wants more and fans are hoping for another progressive 12 months. Want to join our MUFC Pro club for a totally ad-free version of the MEN's Man United app packed with premium features? Click here .
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