Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has spoken of his desire to imprint a ‘proactive’ style of play on the squad, something that will no doubt make his team exciting to watch if successful.
United have struggled to establish a clear identity on the pitch in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, with successive managers preferring different systems, ranging from Louis van Gaal’s one-dimensional philosophy to Jose Mourinho’s overt pragmatism.
There was an element of exciting play at times under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that harked back to the traditional ‘United way’, but things eventually fell apart for the Norwegian and hope for a high tempo press under Ralf Rangnick lasted approximately 45 minutes of his first game.
Ten Hag, who is schooled in the revered Dutch style and spent a year in Pep Guardiola’s setup at Bayern Munich, wants to be playing on the front foot and taking games to opponents.
“What we want is to play proactive football,” the new boss said in the aftermath of Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Aston Villa in Australia.
“We want to play with initiative, we want to play attacking football and that’s also what we’ve seen [against Villa], but in the end, you have to control the game and that’s what we didn’t do.
“[The players] can have a lot of confidence because they are good. But they have to know they must work hard and we need to work as a team to have good performances.”
United have shown enormous signs of progress in just a few short weeks or pre-season under Ten Hag’s guidance. But the late second half collapse against Villa is a sign there is still work to do.