Erik ten Hag has been taking charge of Manchester United Under-21s in a bid to ease young players’ pathway to the first team.
Ten Hag was renowned for developing young players in his previous role at Ajax, and the Dutchman has looked to replicate that in his first season at Old Trafford.
Alejandro Garnacho has enjoyed a breakthrough into the first team, while Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal have been named on the bench over the festive period.
Ten Hag – who coached Bayern Munich’s second team earlier in his career – believes United’s under-21 side was neglected before he took charge at the end of last season.
“For me, cooperation between all the different departments is crucial to get the right culture in a club,” Ten Hag said.
“Like at Ajax, when I entered Manchester United, the reserve team was isolated.
“It was no longer really part of the academy, but it wasn’t part of the first team either. I changed that immediately, just as I did when I entered Amsterdam.
“At Ajax, the reserve team came under the responsibility of the manager. That was the only way I could have influence on the flow of young, talented players towards the first team.
“Of course, I still give the coaches freedom to work, but I also give them direction, by saying for example, ‘I want that player to start playing minutes in that position’.
“So the final responsibility lies with me about how the second team performs and the flow of players that goes from the reserve team to the first team.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 31, 2022
Ten Hag explained the quality of his coaching staff – including assistant Mitchell van der Gaag – allowed him to take a back seat in many training sessions and focus on United’s overall approach.
“I talked to [director of football] John Murtough about this at length before I came to Manchester, and he set it up in such a way that I can work this way here too,” he said.
“In the Netherlands, I made the step towards taking more of a managerial role at Ajax. If you don’t have competent people around you, you can’t delegate and you’re going to do it all yourself anyway.
“But if you do have competent people, you have to bring them into your vision and then you can delegate tasks. An example is the training process with the senior team.
“I know this is in good hands with Mitchell. I can often take an overview view. Then, as a manager, you see a lot more than if you are working on the training exercises yourself.”
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