Manchester United bosses interviewed a host of people who have worked under Erik Ten Hag before deciding to appoint him manager to give the Dutchman the greatest challenge in football.
Senior United figures including John Murtough and Darren Fletcher travelled to Holland to hold in depth talks with numerous players and staff, including medical experts and physios, in a bid to find out if Ten Hag was right for the job at Old Trafford. The revelation is a measure of how desperate new CEO Richard Arnold was to make sure United were not repeating recent history and handing the reigns to the wrong man.
Time will tell if the fallen giants have landed someone capable of achieving what looks like 'Mission Impossible' by turning United into the force of old. Ten Hag has a mammoth task on his hands when it comes to bridging the alarming chasm that now exists between United and the current superpowers Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have moulded at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.
Like one senior club source said: "The club canvassed a lot of opinion on Ten Hag and are confident he will be successful. But the problem will be if Pep and Jurgen hang around at their clubs. Both are on the top of football's Everest looking down on the rest and that won't change soon. It just makes Ten Hag's task so much harder."
When United interviewed Ten Hag last month they were shocked to hear him delivering a damning assessment of how the club has been run during the last decade. He laid into United's scouting and recruitment policy and wanted to know how almost £1billion could be spent on some of the world's biggest stars with little to show for it.
It's no coincidence that less than 24 hours before Ten Hag's appointment, United parted company with chief scout Jim Lawler and global head of scouting Marcel Bout, who had a combined 24 years of service at Old Trafford. Ten Hag is on a mission to change the entire culture of the club and this will begin in earnest this summer, when he looks to rid the squad of all those he doesn't believe will fit into his bespoke philosophies and approach.
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Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani are all out of contract this summer, while doubts remain over the futures of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Fred and Anthony Martial. Nemanja Matic has already confirmed he will be leaving, while Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to do the same.
Ten Hag was chosen as the "unanimous choice" from a shortlist of five, with United believing the 52-year-old is the one "most closely aligned with United's identity and strategy" What this "identity" is remains to be seen, given the club's astonishing fall from grace, but United have hailed Ten Hag a "proven winner" with an "attractive style of play" who is "committed to youth, improves players and develops teams."
Ten Hag impressed United with his passion, energy and enthusiasm towards the job after he convinced them he was driven to prove himself in the biggest and most demanding league in the world. Winning two Dutch titles and cups with Ajax hardly marks him down as one of the game's great achievers, it has to be said.
But from the extensive research United did on him, what they are getting is a tetchy control freak who hates tardiness, likes to micro manage, has little respect for reputations, dislikes the media and doesn't suffer fools. It begs the question, what could possibly go wrong? Who knows, but one thing is clear. It will be fascinating to see how it all pans out.
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