Erik ten Hag needs to ignore bitter LVG and relish the opportunity to make Manchester United great again

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Louis van Gaal raised one or two eyebrows earlier this week when he encouraged Erik ten Hag not to take the Manchester United job.

The Netherlands boss, who endured a difficult two-year spell at Old Trafford, insisted that Man Utd are a commercial club, rather than a football club. While it’s hard to argue with that, show me a modern top European club that doesn’t also fit into that category.

Sure, the Red Devils haven’t been run particularly well since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, and the numerous problems with their owners the Glazers arguably goes back even further than that. During David Moyes’ reign, it had even been suggested that Ferguson didn’t do his successor any favours by leaving him with such a poor squad, but if anything, this is a reminder of what a genuinely elite manager can achieve even if the circumstances aren’t ideal at United.

Van Gaal will no doubt still be bitter about how he was treated by the Manchester side, with the Dutchman surely knowing for weeks or even months in advance that Jose Mourinho was being lined up to replace him. Even an FA Cup final win didn’t save him, with the club sacking him just two days later.

Louis van Gaal won the FA Cup in his final game in charge of Man Utd

We can talk all day long about the lack of class from United in how they dealt with LVG, but there’s also no doubt that he’d have earned himself better treatment if he’d done a better job. Instead, the football was slow, boring, and saw the club drop out of the top four in his second season in charge.

United’s critics will point to how badly every post-Ferguson manager has fared at the club, but the key difference between them and Ten Hag is that they just weren’t very good.

Moyes was totally out of his depth, Van Gaal arrived long after his peak years in management, ditto Jose Mourinho, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a sentimentally-driven appointment that could only go so far once he’d outlived his initial job of ‘lifting the mood’ in the dressing room.

None of these are like Ten Hag, who is a genuine visionary in the way that he coaches the game. His Ajax teams play superb football, and he’s been admired by some of Europe’s biggest clubs for some time. If United are serious about bringing someone in who can implement a successful philosophy and improve the culture at the club, he seems a good bet.

The 52-year-old might think twice about the job if a respected figure like Van Gaal is urging him against taking it, but he should have a little more belief in what he can do, and not let himself get tangled up into the war of words that Van Gaal and Mourinho got themselves into with the club hierarchy.

Erik ten Hag has been warned about the Manchester United job

For all United’s issues, they remain a huge name in world football, with an iconic stadium, a great atmosphere, a world class academy – if Ten Hag truly believes he’s too good for a job like that, then he’s certainly not the right man to take it on.

But what other opportunities are out there for him right now? Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich aren’t changing their managers any time soon; Arsenal and Barcelona look in good shape under their relatively inexperienced head coaches for now; Chelsea will surely keep Thomas Tuchel if a successful takeover happens, and wouldn’t be an attractive job for Ten Hag if it doesn’t; Tottenham might lose Antonio Conte but are as much of a mess as United, but without the great history; Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are probably even worse fits for him than United – don’t be too picky, Erik!

Similarly to when Jurgen Klopp took over at Liverpool, there is a huge opportunity here to rebuild a top team. It won’t happen overnight, but even with all the issues going on behind the scenes, the club’s biggest problem for the last nine years has been consistently hiring the wrong manager. If Ten Hag is good enough, he can succeed where his predecessors failed.

More Stories David Moyes Erik ten Hag Jose Mourinho Louis van Gaal Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Ralf Rangnick