Steven McClaren has very warm memories of his collaboration with Erik ten Hag. The English coach even attributes the national title he won in 2010 with FC Twente to a large extent to the current Ajax coach. “Without Ten Hag we would never have become champions,” McClaren told The Telegraphwho contacted the retired coach in response to Manchester United’s interest in Ten Hag.
Extra striking about the statement of the Brit, who is currently an adviser to the ailing Derby County, is that Ten Hag was no longer working for Twente in the championship season: in the summer of 2009 he went to PSV, to become the assistant manager. become coach of Fred Rutten. According to McClaren, Ten Hag laid such a strong foundation in the 2008/09 season as an assistant, that the title could be won a year later.
Steve McClaren and Erik ten Hag during the 2009 cup final between sc Heerenveen and FC Twente (2-2), which the Frisians won via penalties.
McClaren settled in the summer of 2008 at FC Twente, where then chairman Joop Munsterman appointed him as head coach. The Briton arrived in Enschede without bringing his own staff and was therefore dependent on Ten Hag, who had been an assistant coach there since 2006. “We were supposed to start preparing for the new season the next day, so I asked Erik if the program for the first day was already set,” recalls McClaren. “In two hours he then guided me through the complete preparation of six weeks. Every detail had been thought of, everything was ready. Every drinking break was fixed. I had never experienced anything like this. But his great strength lies not only in his attention to detail and organization.”
Twente had a strong first season under McClaren, who led his team together with Ten Hag to second place in the Eredivisie, behind Louis van Gaal’s AZ. Twente also reached the cup final, which was lost to sc Heerenveen. “Ten Hag was invaluable in my first year at Twente,” McClaren says. “For both the individual and the team, his work was the best I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t have survived without him. I thought I was working hard until I met Erik.”
It is not surprising that Ten Hag is also doing well as a head coach. “He has a clear philosophy about how he wants to play football and the environment he wants to create. Tailored career planning for each player was an important part at Twente and he introduced that at Ajax. For every player, from youth to the first team. Just look at Hakim Ziyech and now Antony, a very good player who will be the next to take a step. I have looked at this Ajax team and it is well put together.”