The former Manchester United treble winner Jaap Stam believes Erik ten Hag has what it takes to succeed at the club, provided they back their new manager in the transfer market.
Ten Hag is the latest in an illustrious line of Dutchmen to have been employed by United, including players such as Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Sar and Robin van Persie. United’s only previous Dutch manager, Louis van Gaal, experienced mixed fortunes, sacked after two seasons but having won an FA Cup and given debuts to Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard. Stam is confident Ten Hag can thrive with the right support.
“We all know what he can do and what he has done over in Holland with Ajax,” Stam said. “Hopefully he can do the same now with United. Obviously, there are certain things that will need to be there for him to help him, maybe in terms of different players and personnel. But I think he’s done a good job in Holland.”
Stam, who won Premier League titles in each of his three seasons with United before being controversially sold to Lazio in 2001, thinks Ten Hag may encounter cultural differences over how his new club handles recruitment, judging by what the former centre-back learned while playing under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“In Holland, we always say that every player in every position needs to be able to play football,” he said. “So a centre-back needs to be able to dribble forward, to be the extra man in midfield, to have that pass. We try to educate players to be able to do everything.
“At United, one of Fergie’s qualities was bringing players in of a certain ability who could do things well in their position; then if they go well together, you’ve got a chance of doing very well. He got the right players for the right positions.”
Early in his own managerial career, Stam guided Reading to the 2016-17 Championship playoff final, losing on penalties to Huddersfield. But the 49-year-old has been out of work since being sacked by Cincinnati in September last year, after four months at the Major League Soccer side.
Stam played under some of the world’s most venerated managers, including Guus Hiddink, Van Gaal, Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and Ferguson. He has previously admitted to being open to an Old Trafford return as a coach.
“When you go into coaching, you’re always thinking about the coaches that you’ve had in the past and the managers,” said Stam, who played for United against Liverpool in a Legends of the North match at Old Trafford last month to benefit the club’s charitable arm, the Manchester United Foundation. “You can even learn a lot from the managers you’ve had where the relationship wasn’t good. It can help you with how to approach players in general. I think that’s very important.
“But I’m not the type of person who’s going to copy things from previous managers I’ve had and use that for my own benefit. That’s not how I am and I don’t think it’s a good thing. I’m not saying that there aren’t certain things you can use, but you don’t need to be a copy of somebody else. You need to have your own way of playing and your own style of being a manager.
“When you go into management at a certain level, it’s not only about teaching players how to play or how to kick a ball. It’s also how you need to address them, how you need to approach them and how you get them to see your vision so they believe in it and believe in you and are willing to work hard for you.”