2. From Trophy-less Central Defender To Trophy-Hunting Manager
Despite a playing career that spanned from 1989 to 2002, Ten Hag actually had no major highlights to write home about, a tough “start” for a career in football for the central defender.
He did see a glimmer of success, winning the Eerste Divisie with De Graafschap in ’91, and lifting the trophy in the KNVB Cup (the Netherlands equivalent of the FA Cup) in 2000-2001 – his underdog FC Twente side defeating the mighty PSV on penalties after a 0-0 result. (A PSV side that had Mark van Bommel & future Man United star Ruud van Nistelrooy!).
Erik started playing for Twente, and went on to play for De Graafschap (who he also won the Eerste Divisie with in ’91), RKC Waalwijk & Utrecht whilst also keeping his toes in with Twente (3 stints altogether). 336 appearances, 15 goals.
There was then a 10-year hiatus from football – as his playing days were over, it took one Marc Overmars to lure Erik back into the fold as the then-shareholder of the club ‘Go Ahead Eagles’. Overmars saw something in Ten Hag, and his instincts paid off instantly with Erik leading the team to its first promotion in 17 years.
Erik left Go Ahead Eagles to manage Bayern Munich II, the German club giant’s reserves side from 2013 to 2015, and then Eredivisie club Utrecht called for him to take over the reins of their club. In his first season, he led them to fifth place and topped that in the 2016–17 season, leading Utrecht to fourth, and booking a place in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers.
On 21 December 2017, he was appointed as the head coach of Ajax. linking up once again with Marc Overmars (at this stage the sporting director) and led the team to numerous triumphs in domestic competitions – and grabbing an elusive taste of European football success in their now infamous 2018-19 Champion’s League campaign.
Ten Hag was appointed as manager of Manchester United on 21 April 2022. Nearly one year from that appointment and we can see glimmers of “Fergie days” returning, as fans eagerly await this final run-in of the 2022-23 season which sees the Red Devils still fighting for more than one trophy alongside their newly polished 2022-23 EFL Cup.