How Pep Guardiola put Erik ten Hag on the path to Old Trafford
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola doesn’t scold or stare but smothers his haters with compliments
Such was the tone of Guardiola’s remarks when asked about Erik ten Hag’s ability last week, before the Dutch manager was announced as Manchester United’s next permanent manager.
“Could Erik ten Hag be here at City? Definitively. I think he could be the one,” Guardiola told a press conference. “I will tell Txiki [Begiristain] now,” he joked.
However, in the case of the 52-year-old Ajax manager, Guardiola’s condescension may have finally given way to genuine intrigue and appreciation. The two men who will face off in the Manchester derby next season have considerable history together.
After a successful debut season in charge of Go Ahead Eagles, whom he helped promote to the Dutch top flight on his first attempt, Ten Hag took the somewhat unorthodox decision to swap his managerial position for a youth coaching role at Bayern Munich in 2013. .
“That moment was extremely precious to me. I remember it well. A lot of people in Holland shook their heads when I left the Eredivisie for the Regionalliga,” Ten Hag told German sports magazine Sport-Bild. in 2018.
However, for the then 44-year-old manager, there was an obvious reason to give up a senior role at a club to nurture young players at the German giants: the opportunity to work under Guardiola.
Before Bayern built its training complex on the outskirts of Munich to house and train its youngsters, the club’s young players and their technical staff rubbed shoulders with the first team and by extension a certain coach. So much so that Ten Hag’s and Guardiola’s side trained on side-by-side pitches, allowing the two managers to talk easily throughout training sessions.
This not only allowed Ten Hag to watch and admire Guardiola’s methods up close, but it also allowed the future United manager to speak to him on numerous occasions about the secrets of the Spaniard’s success at Barcelona and the club. Bayern.
“I never regretted the decision,” Ten Hag recalled when asked about his two years working as Guardiola’s understudy in Bavaria. “Working for a club as big as Bayern with such formative figures as Pep Guardiola and also Matthias Sammer was like winning the lottery.”
Indeed, if Ten Hag’s Ajax side look and play like Guardiola’s own teams in Spain, Germany and now the north of England, it’s because they’re designed to do exactly that.