The news that Erik ten Hag has terminated his Ajax contract six weeks early, and is already in England getting to work on his new job, will be music to Manchester United fans’ ears.
Just hours after overseeing Ajax’s final game of the season, having guided them to the title in midweek, Ten Hag has quickly switched his focus to sorting out the mess at Old Trafford – an encouraging sign that the club have picked the right man to restore them to glory.
He even turned down Ajax’s post-season trip to the Dutch-Caribbean island of Curacao, forgoing the chance for a holiday.
“It’s time to turn the switch now. It’s something that is needed because there is a lot to take care of and I have the energy for it,” Ten Hag told Dutch media.
“A number of things still need to be organised in the staff and also in the selection. We will be working intensively on this.”
He will reportedly begin to decide this week on incomings and outgoings, before watching United’s final game of the season at Crystal Palace. It is unclear, however, if he will be in the stands at Selhurst Park.
The swiftness of Ten Hag’s movements are a breath of fresh air after a season that has seen United hit new lows almost every week, with a dressing room almost fractured beyond repair.
For nearly a decade now, the club has dithered in almost every aspect, from transfer recruitment and contract renewals, to fixing the stadium and overhauling the infrastructure.
Ten Hag is sending a clear message that there is no time to waste, and every United fan should be excited.
There are less than two months to go before Ten Hag takes charge of his first game – against Liverpool, no less – in Bangkok on July 12. Matches against Melbourne Victory, Crystal Palace, and Aston Villa in Australia follow thick and fast.
The Dutchman’s in-tray is already overflowing, with a number of high-profile players departing and needing replacing. And thankfully, there is already noise around arrivals, another positive sign that things are going to be done differently at United.
Gone, it seems, are the summers when Ed Woodward and Matt Judge would dilly dally over transfers, taking a month at a time to wrap up a single deal – and getting extorted in the process – while missing out on a bunch of other targets.
Both have left the club, as part of a huge overhaul of staff behind the scenes being overseen by John Murtough, including the scouting network. United’s new football director was the driving force behind bringing in Ten Hag, and also behind appointing Ralf Rangnick as interim manager.
Rangnick has not set the world on fire with results and performances, but he has exposed the deep roots of failure embedded at this club, which has paved the way for Murtough and Ten Hag to rip things up and start again.
Two players linked last week, Frenkie de Jong and N’Golo Kante, would mark an instant upgrade to United’s midfield, an area Ten Hag has reportedly identified needs drastic improvement.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out: United have lost the midfield battle against every team they have played this season, apart from Leeds.
I sound like a broken record here, but Scott McTominay and Fred simply aren’t good enough, for the Premier League let alone the top four. It would be like night and day, watching Kante and De Jong do their thing in the middle of the park next season.
Barcelona reportedly want around 70 million euros for De Jong, who moved to the Catalan club from Ten Hag’s former Ajax side. He is the kind of player United have not had since Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, a pass master who can dictate the pace of games.
Barca’s financial situation is reportedly still dicey, and United feel they can get a deal done before the end of May.
Speed is clearly of the essence, with United also reportedly feeling they can snatch defensive midfield maestro Kante, who has a year left on his current deal at Chelsea.
Kante is already 31, which could raise questions of whether he is the right profile of player for a rebuild. But if Ten Hag wants him, then United fans and the board must back their new manager to the hilt.
There are also reports Ten Hag wants to reunite with another of his old Ajax charges by signing centre back Matthijs De Ligt from Juventus.
With Donny van de Beek also finally set to get a chance to show what he can do at Old Trafford, the band could be getting back together. Ten Hag would be recreating that spine from his exciting Champions League semi-finalists of 2018-19.
The only thing left to see is whether United finish sixth or seventh in the Premier League, which would mean Europa League or Conference League football in midweek next season.
Finish seventh, and that means United’s season could start as early as July 7 with a play-off. No wonder Ten Hag is bringing his players back two weeks early from their summer holidays.
There’s still plenty of change to come at United before then, but Ten Hag is wasting no time getting down to business, which is a good first step in the right direction.