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Jaap Stam Exclusive: Ten Hag Will Bring Ajax Style To Old Trafford

Jaap Stam is certain that Erik ten Hag will attempt to get Manchester United playing in the same style as Ajax this season. Ten Hag led the Diutch giants to the Eredivisie title in swashbuckling style during 2021-22 – scoring 98 goals and conceding just 19, while only losing three matches. United, meanwhile, endured a torrid campaign, in which they finished sixth and conceded a whopping 57 goals – four more than relegated Burnley. And Stam is convinced that his countryman will emulate the philosophy that made him so successful in the Netherlands.


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Ajax Style

Speaking exclusively to Genting, he said: “He [Ten Hag] is definitely going to try and play in that Ajax style – looking to dominate possession and attack. 

“He’ll try and find different ways to attack. In certain games, he will not be able to dominate possession, so he will be looking to play on the transition with quick breaks. 

“He’ll be looking to play creative football. He’ll want to attack and he will want to win. 

“You can see certain patterns in pre-season that he has been developing and you can see how he will look to exploit spaces with pace when he attacks teams. 

“That is what he is trying to do and you can see that in the type of players that he wants to add to his squad.”

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Possession And Attack

But Stam has warned that, for his methods to be successful, Ten Hag must be given players who possess the requisite qualities for his system – though he has been encouraged by the club’s business so far.

“The players that he [Ten Hag] has brought in are all very confident on the ball in their position,” he explained.

“They are capable of keeping the ball but can also hurt opponents by getting the ball forward quickly – that is why he is so keen on bringing in [Barcelona midfielder] Frenkie de Jong. 

“This is his philosophy – the Dutch way of playing – as long as you keep the ball you don’t need to chase it. 

“If you’re very confident on the ball then eventually spaces will open up and you can exploit them and make the difference. 

“The challenge is replicating that style in the Premier League, because of the quality of the opposition United will face.

“Most of the teams in the league have the quality to play possession or transition football and can hurt you. 

“His style won’t be all that different from other teams in the league. City, for instance, play in a similar way as well. 

“He will need to get his players to fully understand his philosophy so they can make a difference. But, with the quality that he's facing, that's going to be a big challenge for him.”

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Ten Hag Needs Time

Stam also pleaded for Ten Hag to be given time to implement his methods – pointing to Pep Guardiola’s third-placed finish in his first season at Manchester City as evidence that progress is not often instantaneous.

“People always talk about your lack of experience as a manager,” he said.

“But how do you get experience? People need to believe in you and you need to be given an opportunity to test yourself with bigger challenges – he [Ten Hag] has that at Manchester United after doing very well at Ajax. 

“When Guardiola went to City, he didn't have experience in the Premier League. Yeah, he had experience in coaching at Barcelona and Bayern, but not in England. 

“In his first season, he couldn’t bring his style of play to the Premier League because everything didn’t click for him immediately – it was a transition. 

“He was criticised for that and people said he could never do it, but in his second season, his players adjusted to his methods and Manchester City won the title, and he has won four Premier League titles in five seasons. 

“So I think Ten Hag deserves the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to show what he can do. 

“And then of course, within maybe one or two seasons, it will be fair to make an assessment to see if he has the quality. If he does well, then nobody will talk about his lack of experience. 

“This is how it is at top level football and he knows that. He would have spoken to a lot of managers who have worked in the Premier League and people at Manchester United. 

“He would have been preparing for the role and he would have been studying intensely before being appointed. 

“So I think he has all the information that he needs and he knows the size of the challenge that he faces. 

“He will do things his own way and he will also need to find a way of managing the press – what you can and can’t say – how he deals with certain situations publicly. 

“Erik knows how difficult this job is, but he is completely focused. He trusts his ability and he needs to bring the same skills to the table that enabled him to be so successful at Ajax.”

 

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