Erik ten Hag has claimed it’s impossible to make Manchester United play like his successful Ajax team, after reflecting on the Red Devils’ bitter 3-0 defeat against rivals Manchester City.
Erling Haaland netted a brace for the Premier League champions before setting up Phil Foden for City’s third, as Pep Guardiola’s side won the Manchester bragging rights in style on Sunday.
And Ten Hag, who watched his side slip to eighth in the Premier League table at Old Trafford, has made a stunning confession in relation to his successful Ajax team which won a hatful of domestic trophies and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.
‘We will never play the football we played at Ajax here,’ he told ViaPlay after the defeat. ‘I now have other players, that’s not why I came here.’
‘The player material you have determines how you will play. That’s why we play here in a different way than I did at Ajax. That will have to be the case, because I can’t play the same way here.
Erik ten Hag has claimed it’s impossible to make Man United play like his successful Ajax team
Ten Hag’s Ajax won three Eredivisie titles and reached the 2019 Champions League semi-finals
‘That is not in the DNA of Manchester United at all. The football at Ajax is very typical, here we will play much more directly. We also have the players for that, especially at the forefront.’
Despite heading into half time 1-0 down, United showed flashes of promise against the reigning Premier League champions as they created and missed a catalogue of golden chances in the first half.
But the Red Devils fell away after the break and struggled to deal with City’s dominance in midfield, conceding twice more and losing their composure with a series of wild tackles in the final stages.
Ten Hag’s substitutions came under significant criticism after the defeat.
Sofyan Amrabat’s removal at half time left United exposed in defensive midfield and late substitute Antony, who spent a lot of the match frustrated in the dugout, was lucky to stay on the pitch after kicking out at City winger Jeremy Doku.
Ajax celebrate winning the 2022 Eredivisie with Ten Hag, shortly before he joined Man United
Ten Hag suggested that Manchester United’s players are not capable of playing the system he deployed at Ajax and said: ‘The player material you have determines how you will play’
The Dutch manager went on to admit that his side lost their shape while chasing an equaliser in the second half, but urged that he couldn’t blame his players because he saw them ‘fight’.
‘We played quite well in the first half. But of course that penalty changes the picture of the match,’ Ten Hag continued.
‘Then we have to play offensively. We forgot our agreements for a moment and conceded 0-2 far too quickly. But in the first half we did exactly what we had to do and made it very difficult for them.
‘I’ve seen us fight. I can’t blame them for that either. I can’t really blame my team anyway.’
Ten Hag’s Ajax shocked world football by beating Real Madrid and Juventus in the 2019 Champions League, profiting from a progressive system with stars such as Frenkie de Jong, Hakim Ziyech and Matthijs de Ligt.
Manchester United’s Andre Onana and Donny van de Beek were star players under Ten Hag back in 2019 at Ajax, but have struggled to replicate their best form since arriving at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag claims that ‘playing directly’ is in Manchester United’s DNA and therefore he cannot replicate the progressive football he championed during his fruitful time with the Dutch giants
Out-of-favour Van de Beek has only chalked up two Premier League minutes this season, while first-choice goalkeeper Onana has been criticised for making a handful of significant errors during the first few months of his United career.
Ajax’s fairytale Champions League journey ended in dramatic circumstances when Lucas Moura netted a last-gasp equaliser in the semi-final to send Tottenham through on away goals. Spurs were ultimately beaten in the final against Liverpool.
Despite falling short in Europe’s flagship competition, Ten Hag won the Eredivisie three times with Ajax and also won the Dutch Cup twice in 2019 and 2021.
The Dutchman continued his trophy success during his first year at Old Trafford, guiding Manchester United to Carabao Cup glory in February, but has since struggled for form in both domestic and European competitions.