New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said reviving the fortunes of the Premier League club will be a major challenge, the Dutchman said in his first comments about his new job some 24 hours after steering Ajax Amsterdam to a third successive Eredivisie title.
The 52-year-old Ten Hag is leaving Ajax for Old Trafford, where he will offer fresh perspective to a club who have been stumbling aimlessly through the last few weeks of the season.
“It feels like a challenge to put the club back on track of winning. The options are there, including financially,” he said in an interview with Voetbal International magazine on Thursday. “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 refused to answer questions on United, but explained in the interview the recruitment process and what awaits him.
“I know United went through a very precise procedure. 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 insisted he never let his impending move to Old Trafford impact his work in the final weeks at Ajax despite the swirl of interest and publicity around the appointment.
“Much had already leaked out and the questions kept coming. We made it public when everything was settled. In the first weeks [of negotiations], when the outside world got wind of it, there was really no agreement yet, while many assumed that the deal had been completed,” Ten Hag said.
At that time, Ajax were battling with rivals PSV Eindhoven for the league title.
“I was able to separate the interests of Manchester United and my work at Ajax,” Ten Hag added. “Ajax was never let down, not until the last day. She got all the attention the club needed. I always had matters well prepared and was completely focused on Ajax.”
Ten Hag will coach his last Eredivisie match with Ajax on Sunday away to Vitesse Arnhem.