Ten Hag outlines main target for first season in Man Utd hotseat

By Sports Desk May 24, 2022

Erik ten Hag will not be targeting a Premier League title challenge in his first season as Manchester United manager, instead aiming for a return to the Champions League.

Ten Hag was confirmed as the club's next permanent manager in April, with the Dutchman set to pick up from interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

After guiding Ajax to a third Eredivisie title in four full seasons at the helm, Ten Hag ended his contract in Amsterdam early in order to start work with United ahead of schedule.

The 52-year-old and his two assistants, Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren, were present on Sunday as United lost their final match of the season 1-0 to Crystal Palace.

Ten Hag was in Manchester the following day to be introduced to the media for the first time, with playing philosophy, recruitment and squad personnel among the key topics discussed at his news conference.

Talk of seasonal targets was surprisingly absent, but in a separate interview with the club's media channels, Ten Hag provided some insight.

"I said this is the project, to bring Man United back on top, but also we have to accept the current situation we are in," he said.

"First of all, Man United belong in the Champions League, so that will be the first target."

United did appear to be in contention – even if generally regarded as an outside bet – for the top four during much of the 2021-22 season.

But their form suffered badly during the final stages of the season after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in March.

Since losing 1-0 to Atletico at home on March 15, United won just twice in the Premier League and lost five times – among those defeats were 4-0 reverses at the hands of Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Their form over the past two months has laid bare the size of the task facing Ten Hag. While Rangnick did initially stabilise United slightly at the back after his appointment, in recent times they became leaky again and this was exacerbated by a lack of attacking ruthlessness.

The choice of Ten Hag was said to have been influenced by the brand of football his teams play, with fans appearing to react more positively towards him than Mauricio Pochettino when it was reported the pair were the frontrunners.

And he seems convinced success will follow if he can get his ideas across to the players.

Asked about any wisdom he can take away from Ajax, he added: "There are similarities but also contradictions.

"I have to learn and I have to adjust but I also have to stay myself. I'm convinced that we can bring in the structures and the way of play that we want.

"If we get that done, we get that communicated to the players, then we will get that success.

"Like I want to win. Winning is the most important, but also I have the intention to do that in a certain way and in an attacking way. 

"If we cannot do it like that, we still have to win. That is what we have to put in our team."

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