During Manchester United’s tour of America, Erik ten Hag actively participated in a training drill upon noticing an aspect he disapproved of. This incident encapsulates his commitment to an attacking style of play for the upcoming season.
The 53-year-old manager, who had a successful inaugural season with United after transitioning from Ajax, offered an early glimpse into his straightforward methodology as they prepared for their pre-season kickoff against Arsenal.
Speaking in a press conference before kick-off, Ten Hag claimed that his team “don’t play friendly” games. Indeed, that statement was soon proven correct, when goals from Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho sealed a 2-0 win.
In fact, goalkeeper Tom Heaton repeated his manager’s thoughts after the full-time whistle, saying: “We don’t play friendly games.”
Eager to ensure his team’s readiness for their Premier League debut on August 14, Ten Hag exhibited a strong determination. A tale from the team’s last training session in San Diego sheds light on his meticulous attention to detail.
As told byThe Athletic, a moment involving Antony, Harry Maguire and goalkeeper Andre Onana at the session in San Diego forced the United boss to make an on-field appearance.
Antony was out on the wing but rather than run into the space ahead, the Brazilian turned and passed backwards to Maguire, who then went back again to Onana.
Ten Hag, clearly unimpressed with the passage of play, stopped things ‘immediately’ and asked the players why they had funnelled the ball deeper rather than go forward.
In fact, the Dutchman showed them how he wanted the move to play out. He picked up possession in midfield before passing to Victor Lindelof.
Ten Hag then pushed Maguire forwards so he would be available for the next pass.
“Maguire then moved into position and passed first-time to Jadon Sancho,”Laurie Whitwellwrites. “The ball went beyond Antony, who was a decoy. Antony then spun in behind to get the final pass from Sancho and run clear.”
As you can see from a separate clip below, Antony was spotted passing backwards again in the same training session, with some questioning his decision to not run into the space ahead.
This is the clip that made Ten Hag furious with Antony.
Refusing to use his right foot and instead of running forward he passes back to Maguire 😬 pic.twitter.com/tx9vSOV0Vw
— 𝐪𝐡𝐱𝐰𝐳 (@qhxwz_) August 3, 2023
United fan Bryce Guzzetta, who watched the session, concluded that Ten Hag wants to imprint “muscle memory” into his players.
“He seemed very focused on people being in the right places at the right time and especially off the ball movement and awareness,” he said. “It was good to get a peek behind the curtain.”
Thoughts on Ten Hag’s training methods? Can United improve on last season’s third place finish?
Let us know in the comments.