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Erik ten Hag: Manchester United's new sporting director must be on same wavelength as me

Erik ten Hag - Erik ten Hag: Manchester United's new sporting director must be on same wavelength as me
Erik ten Hag has welcomed appointing the club's first-ever sporting director - Getty Images/Ash Donelon

Erik ten Hag insists Manchester United’s new director of football must be on the same wavelength as him if the club is to make the right signings and enjoy a successful future.

United are preparing an approach to Newcastle to lure Dan Ashworth to Old Trafford to take over what Ten Hag views as the key role in player recruitment – and one that can make his job easier.

Southampton’s director of football Jason Wilcox, the former Blackburn winger and Academy director at Manchester City, is also understood to be on the radar of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group who are now in control of United’s football operations.

But while Ten Hag declined to speak of potential candidates for the job, he was willing to discuss the importance of making the right appointment after several years when the club’s transfer strategy has seen millions squandered on players who failed to have an impact.

And, significantly, he stressed that recruitment must not only focus on players good enough to operate at the highest level but but also the “right characters” after problems over the last decade with expensive imports like Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho and even Cristiano Ronaldo whose second spell at the club ended in acrimony.

“I think it is very important you are on one page [with the sporting director] about football philosophy, about football tactics, about the profiles of the players you need in the team,” Ten Hag said.

“So it is very important to have very good communication so you get the right players. It is one of the most important factors to develop a good team, that you have the right players but also the right characters.

“That means you have to do the right work and be aligned and it’s a long process to get the right players in.”

Diplomatically, Ten Hag said he is not unhappy with the current director of football, John Murtough or former United player Darren Fletcher who is technical director, but stressed United should always strive to be better in every department.

“I am happy now in this construction but a club like Manchester United have to look to be better, never to be satisfied, good is not good enough, always try every day to do better than the day before.”

The former Ajax manager, who was backed by Marc Overmars, as sporting director and Edwin Van Der Sar as chief executive during his spell with the Amsterdam club, will also welcome the easing of the burden on his shoulders in turning round United’s fortunes.

“In a club like Manchester United you can’t do everything alone, it is impossible, you need very good people around you,” he said. “I have worked in situations where I was alone in charge, and sometimes I had co-operation, so I have dealt with several situations

“I think it is so specific, especially in a top club, and also so intense with the number of games you play, you need people around who are on the same page, working on the same targets to achieve the high ambitions.”

Omar Berrada has already been poached from neighbours Manchester City as United’s new chief executive and Ten Hag believes the arrival of co-owners INEOS – who now have a 25 per cent stake – is already having a positive effect on the mood around the club and on results on the pitch.

“You see and feel that ambition and it brings a mood and a spirit in this club which belongs to this club. I think the players, the staff are very aligned with the ambitions of INEOS because that’s why we are here, that’s why we’re playing and working for Manchester United.

“I think everything is always aligned with each other. We are a club, the first team is not an isolated department, but I think for the mood of the club it is very important that the team is performing and getting the right results.

“We want to win and achieve the highest. We are very aligned, we have to make strategies and we have to execute strategies to achieve the ambitions.

Ten Hag is hoping Luke Shaw – who came off at half-time in the win at Villa Park on Sunday – will be fit when United bid to continue their six-game unbeaten run at Luton on Sunday.

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