Former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong has been giving his verdict on Erik ten Hag’s first summer at Manchester United.
The Dutchman, who recently retired from professional football, has been analysing precisely what the manager has done this summer.
Ten Hag joined the club at the start of the summer after a poor season and with the need to transform the squad’s mentality and style of players.
De Jong will know how the manager operates after being a massive success in the Netherlands for Ajax. Since joining the Dutch club in 2016, he transformed it completely and brought back a winning mentality for one of the biggest clubs in the country.
In an interview with The Mirror, the former midfielder spoke about the difference in the Red Devils’ squad between last season and the one Ten Hag has transformed it into.
“Erik has 23 egos in his squad at Man United”, De Jong said in a recent interview.
“You can have the best players in the world, but you can only start building a proper side when you can turn all those egos into a team.”
The summer saw a flurry of transfer activity with 19 players leaving the squad and five coming into the first team. Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia, Casemiro and Antony had the luxury of transferring to the squad after a busy couple of months. De Jong carried on speaking about the players that Ten Hag had brought in and explained exactly what they will bring to the squad.
“Ten Hag has chosen his players carefully. I can see one thing, he has picked players with whom he can win a war. I can see the strategy already.
“Look at Martinez in the team. He has that killer mentality. Martinez will run through fire for Ten Hag.
“Antony is adding swagger. He too has a mentality what we call ‘over my dead body’. I have seen that side of Antony plenty of times.
“United have done really good business in my opinion. The spirit in the team has changed.”
Fans of the Red Devils will remember interim manager Ralf Rangnick spoke to the media about the need for a squad transformation. It is safe to say the former Ajax manager has transformed the overall style of the players, with a core of South Americans being at the heart of the rebuilt squad. He has also changed the mentality of the squad with wins over Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks after a slow start to the season.
“Last year, if they conceded a goal, the team collapsed like a house of playing cards,” De Jong said.
“Now, we can all see the energy and strong mentality in the United team. There is a real team on the pitch again.
“That is a start. Then results will follow. At this moment, United are still scoring more goals from counter-attacks than from a dominant style of football.”
One footballer who has returned to form after a difficult spell after the European Championships is academy graduate Marcus Rashford. The Englishman has been used as a striker and has already scored and assisted multiple goals this season. De Jong concluded the interview with a little reflection on Rashford’s current form, saying that it is “wonderful” to see the manager’s faith in him, playing up front as a striker, has been rewarded.
United next face Sheriff in the Europa League after the postponement of the Premier League matches last weekend.
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