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Erik ten Hag has admitted that he cannot replicate the attractive style of football he composed at Ajax at Manchester United in an astonishing admission. The under-pressure United manager has suggested the players at his disposal have forced him to switch his vision in a desperate attempt to improve results.
Ten Hag oversaw a toothless display at Old Trafford on Sunday as Manchester City outclassed his side in every department, winning the 191st Manchester derby 3-0.
It was United’s seventh defeat in 14 games this season, leaving them eight points off the top four with a -5 goal difference.
Ten Hag has received heavy criticism in the aftermath, with many struggling to understand the style of play he is trying to adopt in M16.
And after full-time, the Dutchman squashed expectations of replicating his attractive style of play in Amsterdam, admitting he’s had to resort to a more direct approach.
“Never. We will never play that football. Because those were different players,” Ten Hag told Viaplay.
“This is also not why I came here. We are playing different football than I showed at Ajax because I have to because I can’t play the same way. The players decide how you play.
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“Ajax has a very typical and characteristic style of play. With Manchester United, I will always show different football. I did so last year as well. We play much more direct football here because I have the players for that here.”
Ten Hag’s comments will come as a major concern for supporters, who thought the days of direct, desperate football were vanquished after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking.
And there could also be some disappointment among the United hierarchy, who would’ve surely based their appointment of Ten Hag primarily on the style of play he promised to bring to the club.
He was the overwhelmingly favourite candidate from a competitive pool featuring Luis Enrique, Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel.
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Ten Hag has spent over £400million across 18 months on players presumed to fit his vision at Old Trafford, 10 of which arrived on permanent deals.
But the Dutchman has baffled fans with some of his team selections, snubbing big-money signings like Mason Mount and Antony to opt for the likes of Scott McTominay, barely compatible with his technical demands in a midfielder.
United played direct football under Solskjaer. And rather damningly, it was, for the most part, better than how they’re doing it now.
Arsenal stuck with Mikel Arteta because he showed a clear vision he was determined to stick with – the same with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. Ten Hag needs to give United a reason to keep faith in what he’s doing.
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