Erik ten Hag insists he has Man Utd plan amid Jason Wilcox ‘game model’ audit

Erik ten Hag after Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Burnley

Erik ten Hag has pointedly insisted Manchester United are developing a clear playing style across the club under his watch amid Ineos’ desire to impose a new “game model” at Old Trafford.

In the first signs of potential friction between Ten Hag and United’s new regime under Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the manager said he believed the club were already seeing the fruits of a “shared” playing philosophy and identity he has helped to impose since taking over two years ago.

Telegraph Sport revealed earlier this week how United’s new technical director Jason Wilcox has been tasked with establishing a “game model” and to make recommendations over whether he feels Ten Hag can fit into those plans.

United have for years faced criticism for the perceived absence of a coherent playing style and identity and the pressure on Ten Hag only intensified after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Burnley effectively ended the club’s hope of Champions League qualification.

But, in a pointed response to those revelations, Ten Hag used his official programme notes ahead of United’s Premier League game against Burnley at Old Trafford to claim the club are already well under way to implementing a coherent game model that can drive success from the first team down.

In a week when Ethan Wheatley became the 250th academy graduate to represent United’s first team, Ten Hag suggested the progress made by youngsters such as Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho was evidence their plan is working.

“Strengthening the pathway between the academy and the first team was one of my priorities when I came to the club, working together with Darren Fletcher as the connector and [academy director] Nick Cox and his staff to develop a shared game model, with consistent training methods and playing styles,” Ten Hag wrote.

“We are seeing the results of that this season, with Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo becoming important parts of the first team, and several others competing to join them.

“A top club can never succeed with homegrown players alone, but they will always be an important part of Manchester United. Ethan (Wheatley) can be proud to become the latest part of that story and others who show the right talent and winning attitude can follow him.”

Wilcox has replaced Fletcher as technical director but the former United midfielder is expected to remain in the club even if it remains to be seen in what capacity.

Ten Hag feels they have been working well to cultivate a playing ethos that permeates the entire club and the idea of a potential new game model being imposed appears to be the source of potential friction. Whether the under pressure Dutchman is flexible to any suggestions or changes remains to be seen.

Wilcox is expected to conduct an audit of Ten Hag’s training methods and approach and relations with the dressing room over the coming weeks before reporting back to Ratcliffe’s Ineos team and incoming chief executive Omar Berrada. United are also waiting to appoint Dan Ashworth as sporting director.

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