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Hojlund, Amrabat would complete Man Utd’s evolution into a Ten Hag team by following Klopp

Jul 09, 2023

Erik ten Hag knows copying Pep Guardiola’s construction of Man City is beyond reason, but following the Jurgen Klopp challenger blueprint is fine at Man Utd.

At least in comparison to his first, Erik ten Hag has had a relatively excellent second summer at Manchester United, and one which gives a further indication of the team and style he is looking to construct at Old Trafford.

With Rasmus Hojlund set to join Andre Onana and Mason Mount as new arrivals, the Dutch manager has landed his three key targets two weeks before the season kicks off with a home game against Wolves.

It is a far cry from the disarray that engulfed the club this time last year, with deals for Casemiro and Antony only being sanctioned after the nadir of a 4-0 loss at Brentford, which left United bottom of the table after two games.

READ MORE: Hojlund the new Haaland? He’s not yet the new Nunez. He needs time Man Utd might not have…

The excessive fee paid for Antony in particular is being held as partly responsible for the inflated price demanded by Atalanta for Hojlund, with United still facing transfer market issues that have been commonplace in the last decade.

Nonetheless, Ten Hag has the players he wants, and is likely to add Sofyan Amrabat to his ranks in the coming weeks once several players surplus to requirements are discarded such as Dean Henderson, Fred and Donny van de Beek.

The incomings and outgoings since Ten Hag’s appointment, as well as the players he inherited of whom he likes, tells us a lot about what can be expected from United in the coming season and in the years ahead.

Pace and power, in a nutshell. Hojlund gives United both of those, while Mount is a renowned manager’s dream, a pressing machine capable of running the kilometres few others can. Amrabat would add a further physical edge to the midfield and lighten the heavy load carried by Casemiro.

Onana should ensure United play on the front foot and from the back, with his quick, calm and intelligent passing a world away from the ponderous ‘hoof-ball’ of David de Gea.

This will be music to the ears of Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw, both of whom have shown ability to build play from the back. That Martinez played alongside Onana at Ajax is another bonus for the integration of the Cameroonian keeper.

Signing players he has either worked with or has a strong link to has been a staple of Ten Hag’s transfer business, with Casemiro the only permanent pick-up to date who hasn’t played for either Ajax, in the Eredivisie or in the case of Hojlund, part of the same talent agency as the manager.

He knows them, they know him and they both know what to expect from one another.

At the other end, Harry Maguire’s lack of mobility among other things has led to a demotion from captain to fifth-choice centre-back. He simply is not fit for the new purpose, nor were De Gea or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ten Hag himself has made some very pointed remarks this summer about what he wants and expects from his side with a desire to be the “best transition team in the world” and to play in “the United way”.

Given his choice of Bruno Fernandes as Maguire’s replacement, the rehabilitation of Marcus Rashford’s form and the integration of Alejandro Garnacho into the squad – Kobbie Mainoo looks to be next – these demands add up. All three thrive off transition play, counter-attacking and quick movement.

Fernandes and Mount are not Xavi and Iniesta but it’s press and energy personified and could be a nightmare to play against if all goes to plan.

Fernandes and Rashford are also both players whose futures were questioned when Ten Hag walked in the door last summer, with many not feeling they would be suited to his style of play.

This has proven to be folly with the former Ajax manager showing himself to be unlike many of his compatriots, notably Louis van Gaal, in not being wed to specific and rigid methods.

From using Dusan Tadic and Sebastien Haller up front at Ajax to the Wout Weghorst experiment at United, it is obvious he is a very pragmatic and adaptable coach, both to the players at his disposal and the club he is working for.

United fans have been reared on front foot attacking football, but also a hint of pragmatism, especially in Sir Alex Ferguson’s later years.

It appears Ten Hag is looking to follow suit, with his side shaping up to be more Jurgen Klopp than Pep Guardiola despite the two Manchester-based managers working together briefly at Bayern Munich and coming from the supposed Johan Cruyff school of thought.

It makes sense given Klopp is the only manager to win a title against Guardiola in the last six seasons and one whose style of play has always caused trouble to the Catalonian’s teams.

There is little point of trying to better Pep’s style of play. After all, he is the father of modern-day tiki taka and everything that has come from it.

What Ten Hag, United and any challenger to his and City’s crown need to be is different. The heavy metal to Pep’s opera, albeit Erling Haaland has become their phantom.

Judging from everything Ten Hag has done to date at United, it seems that will be the case. Now it’s time to perform on the biggest stages under the brightest lights.

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READ MOREHojlund the new Haaland? He’s not yet the new Nunez. He needs time Man Utd might not have…is likely to add Sofyan Amrabat to his ranks in the coming weeksOnana should ensure United play on the front foot and from the backhas been a staple of Ten Hag’s transfer businessErling Haaland has become their phantom