ERIK TEN HAG ‘dodged mines laid by Cristiano Ronaldo’ and ignored Louis van Gaal’s advice to join Manchester United.
The Red Devils have undergone a remarkable turn around since the Dutchman took over in the summer and the quadruple remains a possibility.
Two of Ten Hag‘s friends have opened up about his revolution at Old Trafford and the challenges he faced in his first few months.
Clemens Zwijnenberg, who played with the Man Utd manager at FC Twente, and Hans Kraay, who knows him from his time at De Graafschap, spoke to the Mirror about Ten Hag.
Kraay said: “Erik deserves this success at United. People do not realise that he had to walk through minefields at United in his first five months.
“It was chaos at the club for a start – and there were the mines laid by Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Erik went to United because he saw the potential and the challenge.
“You know what Van Gaal said to Ten Hag, don’t you? ‘Erik, it is one big mess at United, don’t go there’.
“But Erik did, he did not mind sorting it all out and didn’t mind walking around Cristiano’s landmines.
“What is great about Erik is that he is down to earth and never wants to be a flash manager like some managers.
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“He is not like Jose Mourinho. When he went into his first day of training, he wanted to go in a van with his own cones in the back. That sums him up.
“Erik has always had to fight and work hard for everything he has achieved. Before he won his first league titles at Ajax he was ridiculed for his strong countryside accent. They used to imitate him in satire shows on TV.
“In Holland, everyone said a coach with such an accent could not work at a big flash club like Ajax. When Ajax started to win trophies everyone said that was all the work of technical director Marc Overmars.
“Only when he started to beat European giants like Real Madrid and Juventus did he finally get the credit.
“This is why I say, ‘don’t laugh at Ten Hag and never underestimate him.’ Erik will always rise above all the expectations.”
Zwijnenberg has been mates with Ten Hag since they were 13-years-old and he explained that the United gaffer prefers to do his talking with trophies.
He said: “I used to explode in front of the telly because of all the things that were said about Erik.
“So many people have been prejudiced about him. Even before he went to United, some of the comments were absolutely scandalous.
But the great thing about Erik is that he never shows any emotion towards his haters. I do think that deep inside it pushes him to prove everyone wrong. He has shut them all up in the past – and he is doing the same now.”
“Erik went to United absolutely convinced he was going to bring trophies to Old Trafford. I know him, I know what he had in mind, and I also know what he has in mind for the next few years at the club.
“I did not get emotional when he lifted the Carabao Cup at Wembley. I did not even ring him or send him a text. I left him alone for three days because I knew the whole world wanted him and he had all kinds of important people around him.
“Me and him prefer to talk when he has a bit of breathing space.”