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Erik ten Hag has sought to revitalise Manchester United’s academy – Man United News And Transfer News


Erik ten Hag has placed a far greater level of focus on the Manchester United academy than his predecessors, if recent reports are to be believed.

The Athletic reports how Ten Hag sees the youth set-up as an integral part of his “vision for the future” of United, with “expectations on the academy…said to have gone up another level” since his appointment.

This approach feels reminiscent of the last great manager to be at the helm at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag took immediate charge of the U-23s team upon joining the club, as he had previously at Ajax. This enabled the Dutchman, in his own words, to “have influence on the flow of young, talented players towards the first team”. This influence extended all the way down the United academy with a greater level of congruency in the style of football and expectation of performance instilled at all age groups.

The Athletic recounts a moment last season when one of United’s youth sides lost to an opponent considered a much weaker academy. Ten Hag personally intervened, demanding answers for how such a defeat, and performance, could happen.

He was told the opposition players were older and stronger than their United counterparts, to which Ten Hag responded: “It is not about being older or younger, it is about being better.”

This may, on the surface, appear excessive; an example of the type of micromanagement which may spread a coach too thin. However, it’s exactly the type of approach needed to steady the sinking ship Old Trafford had descended into over the past decade; a decline in attitude and application, as much as quality.

The Dutchman details how important “cooperation between all the different departments” at a football club is to its overall success; it is “crucial” to establish the “right culture” at every level of the organisation. Ten Hag asserts that while this approach was “totally new” for current United officials, they were “immediately open to it”.

The Dutchman held a series of one-on-one meetings with a range of the most promising academy players at United last season. These discussions were designed to outline the standards and expectations required to become a first-team player at Old Trafford and to illustrate Ten Hag’s “vision for the future of the club”.

This tangible connection, between the man at the head of the first-team and youth players in the U-18s team, helps to unite United.

The emergence of the electric Alejandro Garnacho last season illustrates the template for these players to follow, with Kobbie Mainoo the most recent successful graduate. Mainoo’s impressive pre-season was cut short by injury, but his shirt number reversal – from 73 to 37 – exemplifies his growing importance in the first-team, and how “highly he is regarded” by the coaching staff.

It is growing increasingly tacit – if you are good enough, and your attitude fits the mould being established as his baseline, you can play under Ten Hag, regardless of your age.

It speaks to the manner in which the club had drifted from this core identity in the post-Ferguson malaise, as youth players often formed the beating heart of successful United teams. The fact Ten Hag has sought to re-establish this tenet of Old Trafford’s history is a promising omen for the future.

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