Former Manchester United manager Eric Steele said the club’s culture had been lost but backed new manager Erik ten Hag to reinstall the dressing room discipline needed for the team to succeed again.
Ajax boss Ten Hag was appointed as United’s new manager last week and will take up the role this summer, when he will be tasked with reinvigorating a club that hasn’t won a trophy for five years.
Steele, who worked under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, spent time with Ten Hag during his tenure at Utrecht, and has no doubt the Dutchman has the strength of character to deal with big names – and potential egos – inside the United States. changing room.
In an exclusive interview with sky sportsSteele said: “I’ve never seen so much information come out of the Manchester United dressing room and become public. I’m sure he’ll discipline it very quickly and say, ‘this has to stop’, which is precisely which is necessary. I don’t think he will allow all of that.”
Ten Hag has never been successful outside the Netherlands, but when asked directly if he can cope with United stars, Steele is adamant.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “When I was there, you had big characters – big players ran the dressing room, and that’s what you want.
“You want them to have the belief, to come every day and want to succeed, to train hard every day to improve the club, improve the team and succeed the team.”
“There are arguments on the pitch between the players,” Steele added. “Things that happened in the dressing room that came out – those just wouldn’t have happened when I was there under Sir Alex.
“So I think they have to have the right culture on and off the pitch, and I’m sure Ten Hag is the man who will get them back to where they should be: in the top four.”
Steele got a good taste of Ten Hag’s methods in 2017 when he was invited to spend a few days with him and former Aston Villa goalkeeper Stefan Postma, who was goalkeeping coach at Utrecht.
Incidentally, Steele was at the Eredivisie club’s Christmas party when the announcement was made that Ten Hag was leaving to take over at Ajax.
“I was like, ‘Great! I had an immediate effect on him. I only saw him a few days and he’s gone!” Steele joked. “But it gave me a perfect opportunity to see him work.”
What Steele has seen of Ten Hag on the training ground in those few days gives him confidence that he can be the manager to help fix a United team that Gary Neville has called ‘broken’.
Asked to describe Ten Hag’s workouts, Steele said: “They were very intense – I liked how every detail was given.
“They focused on what to do in possession – what to do with the ball to hurt the team they were playing against. Then they did ‘out of possession’ – that’s how we’ll defend, we’ll press there, drop behind… the attention to detail really impressed me.
“The players just slotted in – they had obviously been well trained. It was his voice, well controlled – you could see the way the players responded to it, his manner. Yeah – very impressed with everything about him. “
“It’s a transition-based style,” Steele explained. “He’ll be looking to break fast, he’ll be looking for them to be organized when they lose the ball, and that’s exactly what they need.
“I watched United play a few weeks ago and I still don’t know what form they were playing when they lost the ball. There won’t be such problems under Erik ten Hag – he will pierce them until that he takes them where he wants. And right now that’s definitely what Manchester United need.
“Everything will be very detailed – (the players) will know exactly the structure, the game plan. They will have no doubts about what is required. There will be no more details in the dressing room – everything will have been discussed on the training ground.”
Above all, Steele says Ten Hag needs time and warned United fans they will have to be patient as he believes the Dutchman has an even bigger job than Jurgen Klopp when he was brought in to help. rebuild Liverpool in 2015.
“We know how long it took Jurgen Klopp to establish his style and commitment and pass it on to his players,” Steele said. “Ten Hag was in this situation when Klopp arrived at Liverpool.
“But he showed him patience and you look where he took Liverpool, they’re on the same level as Manchester City now. And Ten Hag is going to need that time to do that. You can’t build a one-day success on the next day.
“You have two teams withdrawing, both on and off the pitch. There are people at this club (United) to support Ten Hag, and we all want a Man Utd back in the top four.
“It’s not such a good league without them.”
Ten Hag focus on Ajax but spends time on Man Utd plans
Speaking after his appointment as United’s next manager last week, Ten Hag revealed he was spending time planning his next job although he is yet to see the rest of the campaign with Ajax.
Ten Hag has yet to decide who will be part of his coaching staff at Old Trafford and faces a big recruitment summer, with many players set to leave.
But he still has a title race to win in the Eredivisie with Ajax, who clinched a late 1-0 victory over NEC on Saturday afternoon to move seven points clear of PSV at the top of the table, although the PSV then won their game at Cambuur. to return to within four points.
Speaking after that match, Ten Hag said, “I always stay focused on the job I have to do, no matter what’s around me.”
Pressed on whether he spent time on his plans for United, Ten Hag added: “You always spend time on the future, but my head and my energy is for Ajax.”
With Ajax heading for a third title in four years, United’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League took a hit on Saturday when they lost 3-1 at Arsenal.
They are now six points behind the Gunners in fourth, with four games to go.
But Ten Hag declined to discuss his future team’s struggles, saying: “I have no opinion on the results of Man Utd because I show respect for the people who are at Man Utd, and I am responsible for the results. ‘Ajax and that’s what I comment on.’