Erik ten Hag says the challenge of getting Manchester United back on track is a "difficult but fantastic one" as the Dutchman prepares to take over at Old Trafford.

United confirmed last month that Ajax head coach Ten Hag will replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Red Devils have gone five seasons without winning any silverware and will finish this campaign with their lowest ever Premier League points tally.

Ten Hag will be tasked with bringing an end to that barren spell, while also guiding United back into the top four at the very least.

He told Voetbal International: "It feels like a challenge to put the club back on track of winning. The options are there, including financially.

"I've also got a good feeling about the people who are there, and that we can take a step in the direction."

Ten Hag had previously been unwilling to discuss his new job while still in charge of Ajax, where he has spent the past four and a half years.

But after winning the Eredivisie title with the Dutch giants for a third time this week, Ten Hag has now opened up on his decision to swap Ajax for United.

"I know United went through a very precise procedure," he said. "They'd done scouting, analyses, data, interviews with people who worked with me. Then we held multiple interviews. They didn't rush into things and neither did I.

"It felt like a difficult, but fantastic challenge. At United, there's something to build and something to win. Manchester United is such a big name in the history of football. It's not for nothing they call Old Trafford the Theatre of Dreams.

"It's a club with an allure in international football. Everyone knows their history. The history is impressive, but I've also researched the present and future and the possibilities."

Ten Hag is reported to have met with United football director John Murtough on Thursday to discuss transfer targets, with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong said to be among them.

Ajax assistant Mitchell van der Gaag and ex-England boss Steve McLaren, who are tipped to join Ten Hag at Old Trafford, were also reportedly at the meeting in Amsterdam.

But while Ten Hag's focus is now on reviving United's fortunes, the 52-year-old insists he was never once distracted when it came to his work with Ajax.

"I was able to separate the interests of the two," he said. "Ajax was never let down. The club got all the attention it needed. I always had matters well prepared and was completely focused on Ajax."

Ajax face Vitesse on Sunday in their final match under Ten Hag, who will be succeeded at the Johan Cruijff ArenA by Club Brugge boss Alfred Schreuder.

Alfred Schreuder will take over from Manchester United-bound Erik ten Hag as Ajax head coach.

Ten Hag will head to Old Trafford at the end of the season, having seen his Ajax team wrap up the Eredivisie title on Wednesday with a 5-0 rout of Heerenveen.

Ajax on Thursday confirmed Ten Hag's replacement, announcing they have reached an agreement with Club Brugge boss Schreuder.

The 49-year-old, who served as Ten Hag's assistant in 2018-19, when Ajax reached the Champions League semi-finals, has signed a two-year deal with an option for a third.

Schreuder only joined Belgian side Brugge in January, and is hoping to lead them to glory in the play-offs for the Belgian championship.

 

He coached Hoffenheim in 2019-20, though left in June of that season and linked up with Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, acting as assistant to the former Netherlands boss, who will take charge of the Dutch giants once again following the World Cup later this year.

"Becoming head coach at Ajax is an honour and a great opportunity, that I will grab with both hands," Schreuder said.

"I'm also excited to return here, because I enjoyed the one and a half years I've worked at Ajax very much. I wish to win prizes here in Amsterdam, with a team that plays attractive football. With a good balance between experienced top players and very big talents.

"But first I want to end the season with Club Brugge successfully. I want to say goodbye with a title, that is very important to me and I will do my absolute best to accomplish that."

Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar added: "We know Alfred as a tactically strong trainer with good and versatile exercise material. These last years he has gained experience as a head coach and as assistant coach at top clubs in various countries and competitions."

Erik ten Hag will head to Manchester United as a champion after his Ajax side wrapped up their latest Eredivisie triumph in style on Wednesday.

Ajax have been locked in a tense tussle with PSV for much of this season but headed into the penultimate round of matches knowing victory against Heerenveen would clinch the title.

Ten Hag's men did not disappoint, winning 5-0 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA through goals from Nicolas Tagliafico, Steven Berghuis, Sebastien Haller, Brian Brobbey and Edson Alvarez.

That result made PSV's own 3-2 win against NEC immaterial, with a four-point gap maintained.

It secures Ajax's 36th championship and seventh in the past 11 full seasons, with Ten Hag overseeing three successes. He is the fourth coach to win three or more titles with Ajax.

And Ten Hag's class of 2021-22 made history as they finished with a flourish, winning by five or more goals for a record 10th time this season alone.

UEFA has approved changes to the Champions League format from the 2024-25 season, including an increase to eight group-stage matches.

European football's governing body had already announced in April that the competition would expand from 32 teams to 36 in two seasons' time.

And following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the number of rounds in the group stage will increase from six to eight.

All group and knockout-stage games up until the final will continue to be staged on midweek days, as it currently the case.

Two of the four additional places in the expanded format will be awarded on the basis of the highest-performing countries from the past season across UEFA club competitions.

If that had been the case this season, an additional team from the Premier League and Eredivisie would have qualified for next season's tournament.

It had previously been reported that those two places would go to clubs on the basis of their historic performance in European competition, but that is no longer the case.

Of the other two spots, an extra team will qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe, while another will go to one of the domestic champions who do not qualify automatically.

Commenting on the changes, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, said: "UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

"Today's decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage."

Under the new format, the initial phase will contain a single league consisting of all 36 teams, with each side playing four home games and four away games against eight different opponents.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16.

Ceferin added: "We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.
 
"I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

"Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs."

Similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with both also including 36 teams in the initial league phase.

DR Congo international winger Jody Lukoki has died aged 29, with the cause of his death currently unknown.

Lukoki came through the ranks at Dutch giants Ajax before spells with PEC Zwolle, Bulgarian club Ludogorets and Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor.

The 29-year-old, who won three Eredivisie titles with Ajax, signed for FC Twente on a two-year deal last June but suffered a cruciate ligament injury in pre-season training.

Lukoki had his contract terminated by Twente in February for what the club described as "events in his personal life".

Twente confirmed the passing of Lukoki on Monday in a statement that read: "This morning FC Twente received the terrible news that Jody Lukoki has passed away.

"The club is shocked and deeply moved by this tragic event. FC Twente sympathises with his loved ones and wishes them a lot of strength in processing this great loss."

Zwolle also paid tribute: "PEC Zwolle has learned with dismay and sadness of the far too early death of former player Jody Lukoki.

"Lukoki will forever be remembered as PEC Zwolle's first goalscorer in an official European game. PEC Zwolle wishes the relatives of Jody Lukoki a lot of strength to bear this enormous loss."

While Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor added: "We learned with sadness the news that Jody Lukoki, who wore our club's jersey in the 2020-2021 Super League season, passed away.

"Our condolences to his family and community."

Lukoki represented the Netherlands at youth international level but opted to play for DR Congo, who he made his senior debut for in 2015.

All three caps for the Leopards came in friendly matches, with his last coming against Burkina Faso in 2020.

Fred Rutten has revealed he rejected the chance to become Erik ten Haag's assistant manager at Manchester United.

Ten Hag was last month confirmed as the successor to interim boss Ralf Rangnick at Old Trafford and will officially take charge in the coming weeks.

The current Ajax head coach is assembling his backroom team, but he was unable to persuade Rutten to join him at United.

Rutten will instead join Ruud van Nistelrooy at PSV – one of several former clubs.

"Erik ten Hag has asked me to be his assistant at Manchester United," Rotten said, as quoted by De Telegraaf. "I said no.

"Everyone makes his own choices in life. I have a family, I have grandchildren that I want to see. This type of project, I felt uncomfortable with it."

Rutten, who employed Ten Hag as his assistant at both Twente and PSV, added: "At Manchester United you get on a train and you can't get off it. I want to feel comfortable in something you step into. That is the case with PSV. 

"It's nice when you have grandchildren, who you see every now and then and who can play ball with."

Former United striker Robin van Persie, ex-Red Devils coach Steve McClaren and Ajax assistant Mitchell van der Gaag are other reported candidates to work as Ten Haag's right-hand man.

Erik ten Hag says questions about the future of Cristiano Ronaldo and other Manchester United stars are "for the future" as he focuses on attempting to see Ajax over the line in the Eredivisie title race.

It was confirmed last month Ten Hag will be the replacement for interim boss Ralf Rangnick from next season.

The long-term future of Portugal superstar Ronaldo, who signed on for a second spell at Old Trafford from Juventus back in August, has been shrouded in doubt despite the fact he has another year on his contract, with an option to extend for a third season, and has contributed 18 Premier League goals for a United side that has badly underperformed this season.

Reports in the British media suggested Dutchman Ten Hag wants Ronaldo to be a part of his plans next term, but when asked about the prospect of working with the 37-year-old at a news conference previewing Ajax's clash with AZ, he kept his cards pressed firmly to his chest.

"They are questions for the future and not in this moment," he said.

"I want to answer questions about Ajax, we are in an important race, and an important week. I want to focus on Ajax and not on Manchester United."

There have been rumours Ten Hag could look to take some of his Ajax squad with him to Old Trafford, with Sebastien Haller, Antony, and Jurrien Timber among those linked with a switch.

Ten Hag denied suggestions any deals are in place, though.

"No, there are no agreements about that," he added. "I now have very good players, but it's not an issue at all."

Erik ten Hag appears as though he will have a huge say over his own Manchester United transfer targets.

The Dutchman has inked a three-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option for a further year.

Ten Hag will officially take over on July 1, with Ralf Rangnick remaining in interim charge.

A face familiar to the Premier League could now be headed to Old Trafford with Ten Hag from Ajax…


TOP STORY - TEN HAG TO BRING HALLER TO UNITED

Manchester United may make a move for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller in the off-season according to The Sun.

Haller currently plays under ten Hag, who will take over at United at the end of the campaign.

The Ivory Coast striker, who spent two years with West Ham United, has netted 33 goals in all competitions for Ajax this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are optimistic that they can land Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski in the off-season, reports Sport. Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023.

- Liverpool have contacted 22-year-old Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni about a move to England, claims Foot Mercato.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Inter are not interested in signing Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, contrary to reports. Pjanic is currently on loan at Besiktas from Barcelona.

- David de Gea and Manchester United are ready to enter into talks on a contract extension reports 90min.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Luka Modric will ink a new deal with Real Madrid running until 2023.

Bayern Munich signing Erling Haaland "doesn't make any sense" for sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic because they have Robert Lewandowski.

Haaland is believed to be available for €75million due to a clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract and is set leave in one of the upcoming off-season's major transfers. 

The Norway international has scored 82 goals and supplied 19 assists in 86 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund since making his debut on January 18, 2020. He has averaged 1.1 goals per 90 minutes, a record that is only bettered by Bayern striker Lewandowski (1.2) among players in the top five European leagues.

Haaland has been touted as a potential replacement for Lewandowski, who Bayern were said to be open to offers for with his contract expiring at the end of next season. 

However, Lewandowski leaving the Allianz Arena at the end of the campaign has been ruled out by Salihamidzic, who therefore sees no reason to pursue Haaland. 

"It doesn't make any sense," Salihamidzic said when asked on Sky90 about Bayern moving for Haaland. 

"We have the best striker in the world. We have Lewandowski." 

Asked if there was any player Bayern would break the bank for, Salihamidzic replied: "That's up to the supervisory board. But we don't want to put the club at risk. That will continue to be our philosophy in the future. 

"Of course, after the Champions League win it would've been great to keep all the players – like [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ivan] Perisic – but we can't ruin the club financially. We can't do squad planning like that. 

"We have a philosophy at the club. We have 14 top players in the squad and a number of top talents we want to develop. We don't have the money for 20 top players like in England." 

One player who could be heading to Munich for next season is Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, though Bayern are yet to agree to reported demands of a €30million fee. 

"He is a good player. We're in talks, I can say that much," Salihamidzic revealed. 

"With a transfer like this, a lot has to go right. I can't say [how it is looking]. It's difficult, like all transfers." 

Salihamidzic is also expecting to see more from Leroy Sane, who has failed to score or assist in his past eight appearances in all competitions for Bayern. 

"He's an incredibly talented young man who has everything. He's super fast, he can dribble and has this mental strength. But he has to deliver now," he said. 

"When he's showing good body language, that's good, but if he doesn't, that's not good. I don't want to see this. I spoke to him about it. 

"He has potential, but I want to see that on the pitch. We spoke several times. The people in charge, the coach, the players, everyone expects him to explode on the pitch. It's hard to say why he's not performing as expected. He's listening well. I hope he'll do it." 

Mauricio Pochettino insists he has "always been fully committed to my mission" at every club he has coached at amid rumours he was disappointed to miss out on the Manchester United job.

The Paris Saint-Germain boss had long-since been considered a front-runner to take over from interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who has filled in at Old Trafford since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November.

However, Ajax coach Erik ten Hag was confirmed as the latest man to try and restore the good times at United, with the Dutchman taking over on a three-year deal from next season.

Reports in the British press suggest Pochettino was caught off guard by United's decision, with the Argentinian said to have been researching Manchester as a city to live.

Speaking prior to PSG's clash with Lens on Saturday, a game in which even a point would mathematically clinch the title, Pochettino was adamant he is committed to his role at Parc des Princes.

"All the rumours that have come out this year and throughout my career have never bothered me," he said.

"I never commented on them. I coached Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham, today PSG, and I have always been fully committed to my mission. 

"I work the same way by being focused on the objectives. If I paid attention to all the rumours, life would be different."

 

United's decision to overlook Pochettino means the former Tottenham boss' future remains unclear.

PSG are cantering towards the Ligue 1 title but were knocked out of the Champions League in a dramatic last-16 tie by Real Madrid.

Ralf Rangnick has not yet discussed his Manchester United future beyond this season as the interim manager gave his full backing to successor Erik ten Hag.

United confirmed on Thursday that Ajax head coach Ten Hag will take over from Rangnick in the Old Trafford hotseat from the end of this season.

The Dutchman, who has a 73.8 per cent win rate across 210 games in charge of Ajax, will become the Red Devils' fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Ten Hag has won two KNVB Cups and two Eredivisie titles in his four full campaigns at Ajax, with the Dutch giants on the verge of finishing top of the table again this term.

And while Rangnick does not have a personal connection with Ten Hag, he is a fan of the 52-year-old's style of play.

"We don't know each other, we haven't met as yet in person," Rangnick said. "I knew that Erik was one of the candidates the board spoke to.

"Obviously I told them, at least from what I had seen and know from people who have worked with Erik, that I think he would be a good choice.

"From I've seen of him, both at Bayern Munich when he was the under 23 coach and at Ajax now, I like his football.

"I'm positive with a full pre-season, with having the chance to build and mould his own staff and also a new team, we will see a different team and an improvement on the pitch."

 

Rangnick was placed in charge of United until the end of the season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

That deal included an agreement that would see the German stay on at United for a further two years in a consultancy position, but he is not sure if that remains the plan.

"We haven't had time to speak about that," Rangnick said when asked if he would be working behind the scenes next season.

Ten Hag will inherit a United squad that has gone five years without a trophy and with question marks surrounding the futures of many players.

Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani are out of contract, while Nemanja Matic has already confirmed he is moving on when his existing deal expires.

United are also expected to be busy in terms of incoming activity as part of a major rebuild, which Rangnick is happy to help out with if called upon.

"It's obvious there are quite a few players with their contracts expiring," Rangnick said. 

"There might be a few others who – although they have contracts – are already on loan and still want to be on loan or leave the club. 

"It will be a significant change and rebuild necessary, that's clear, but how many players and which positions, as I've said, I've not spoken to Erik in person yet. 

"If he asks me my opinion in person, I'm willing to speak to him about my experience, but on the other hand, he'll also have his own ideas."

In what has been another hugely underwhelming campaign for United, skipper Harry Maguire has come in for more criticism than most for his displays in defence.

That personal abuse spilled over on Wednesday when the defender and his family received a bomb threat, though no device was discovered in his house.

Maguire is expected to be in contention to start Saturday's Premier League trip to Arsenal and has been given the full backing of Rangnick.

"I haven't seen him yet because I only got to know about this terrible, terrible thing yesterday afternoon and since then I haven't been able to speak with him," Rangnick said.

"This is another bad sign of the crazy world we're living in and, obviously, I feel very sorry for Harry that he had that terrible experience. 

"He knows that we are all behind him, the club is behind him, everybody, the players, his team-mates. It's sad enough that crazy things like that happen."

David de Gea is "very excited" to work under Erik ten Hag after the Dutchman was confirmed as Manchester United's new manager on Thursday. 

Ten Hag will arrive from Ajax at the end of the season and take over from interim boss Ralf Rangnick on a three-year contract with an option to extend for another year. 

The 52-year-old is on course to win a third Eredivisie title with Ajax this season and has been lauded for his possession-based style. 

He guided Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19 and won two KNVB Bekers, though he was unable to make it a third last Sunday when his side were beaten 2-1 by PSV in the final.

De Gea is pleased to finally have clarity over United's managerial future and hopes they can focus on getting their push for a place in the Premier League's top four back on track. 

"Very excited the club has made the decision so now we all know," De Gea told United's official website. 

"We know what he has done for Ajax, he has nearly been in a Champions League final, he won titles and he develops players, so I’m very excited. 

"I think he plays very good football. Now we have to be very focused on the last games but we are excited to know who is coming. But now let's focus on Arsenal and fight until the end to be in the top four. 

"It's good to know and for sure he is already watching the games and thinking about what he can do to improve the team, so that's very good for us. I'm looking forward to working under him. 

"Of course, now the focus on Arsenal, it's a final [for us], we have to take the three points, [otherwise] the top four is done. Let's be focused and win the game." 

John Murtough says Erik ten Hag landed the Manchester United job after he "deeply impressed" the hierarchy with his "long-term vision" for the club.

United on Thursday confirmed Ajax head coach Ten Hag will replace interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season.

The 52-year-old has agreed a deal until June 2025, subject to being granted a visa, with the option of extending his stay at Old Trafford by a further year.

Ten Hag has won two Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Cup twice since taking charge of Ajax in December 2017.

The Amsterdam giants are poised to lift the Eredivisie trophy again at the end of Ten Hag's reign, as they lead second-placed PSV by four points.

Football director Murtough revealed United were convinced the Dutchman is the right man to turn their fortunes around.

He told the club's official website: "During the past four years at Ajax, Erik has proved himself to be one of the most exciting and successful coaches in Europe, renowned for his team's attractive, attacking football and commitment to youth.

"In our conversations with Erik leading up to this appointment, we were deeply impressed with his long-term vision for returning Manchester United to the level we want to be competing at, and his drive and determination to achieve that.

"We wish Erik the best of luck as he focuses on achieving a successful end to the season at Ajax and look forward to welcoming him to Manchester United this summer."

While Ten Hag has become accustomed to winning trophies at Ajax, he faces a big rebuilding job at United.

The Red Devils have not won a trophy for five years and are sixth in the Premier League, seemingly looking set to miss out on Champions League qualification after being hammered 4-0 by Liverpool on Tuesday.

Erik ten Hag is happy to have "clarity" on his managerial future with Manchester United, but insists he is fully focused on ensuring he leaves Ajax on a high note.

The Dutchman was confirmed as the Premier League outfit's next full-time manager on Thursday, succeeding interim boss Ralf Rangnick on a deal through June 2025.

It ends a lengthy courtship by the Red Devils to bring Ten Hag to Old Trafford, having parted ways with previous permanent boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in late 2021.

Speaking on his appointment, 52-year-old Ten Hag professed his delight to confirm the deal, but says he remains committed to bowing out with a third Eredivisie title in Amsterdam.

"I'm happy that it has been finalised and that it has been officially announced," Ten Hag told Ajax's official website. "That clarity is important.

"But I only have one interest now and that's these last five games. I want to finish my time here on a positive note, by winning the league.

"By doing so, we'll qualify directly for the Champions League. Ajax belongs there."

Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar – a former United player – added Ten Hag was making the journey to "one of the biggest clubs" in the sport, and thanked him for his time in charge.

"Four and a half years is a good amount of time, but we would have liked to have kept Erik at Ajax for longer," Van der Sar said.

"He is going to make the step to one of the biggest clubs in the world, in a fantastic league. We owe Erik a lot of thanks for what he has achieved with Ajax so far, but we are not done yet.

 "At the end of the season, I will look back more extensively on his departure. For now, what matters is the final games of the season in which we all want to bring home the league title."

Manchester United have confirmed that Erik ten Hag will take over as their new manager at the end of the season.

After months of speculation, the 52-year-old Ajax boss will succeed Ralf Rangnick in the Old Trafford hotseat at the end of a frustrating campaign for the Red Devils.

With Rangnick moving upstairs to take on a consultancy role at the club, Ten Hag has agreed a contract until June 2025, with the option of a further year.

Ten Hag, who will take charge subject to being issued with a visa, told United's official website: "It is a great honour to be appointed manager of Manchester United and I am hugely excited by the challenge ahead. 

"I know the history of this great club and the passion of the fans, and I am absolutely determined to develop a team capable of delivering the success they deserve.

"It will be difficult to leave Ajax after these incredible years, and I can assure our fans of my complete commitment and focus on bringing this season to a successful conclusion before I move to Manchester United."

Ten Hag has won two Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Cup twice since joining Ajax in 2017, and will hope to bow out after securing a third league crown in the coming weeks, with the Amsterdam giants leading second-placed PSV by four points.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils' season hit a new low this week when they were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield, leaving their chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League looking slim.

United will have endured five seasons without lifting a major trophy by the time Ten Hag starts work.

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