ERIK TEN HAG has brought exciting football back to Manchester United — but he bored the pants off players in his first job as a boss.
Initially, at least . . .
Sjoerd Overgoor was part of the Go Ahead Eagles squad that had to adapt to Ten Hag’s methods when he arrived at the second-tier Dutch club in the summer of 2012.
Overgoor said: “A lot of players thought, ‘This coach is crazy’.
“At the end of pre-season, we did a lot of 11 against zero.
“He showed us patterns and where to take our positions. Starting from the goalkeeper, he plays to the left central defender, then we build up from there.
“It’s a little bit boring because you have no opponents to play.
“We did it a lot and after a couple of times, it was, ‘Again? 11 against zero?’ ”
Like United’s stars — notably Cristiano Ronaldo before he left and Marcus Rashford — the Eagles players also had to cope with Ten Hag’s disciplinary code.
Overgoor, 34, explained: “From day one, he was the same as he’s been at United, just really strict.
“On the first day of training, we had bibs to play eight against eight games — yellow, green and orange.
“After training, we then put them all together and he said, ‘No, I want the yellow ones here, the orange ones here’.
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“If you were late for training, you couldn’t train.
“He was strict to make us more professional.”
The new regime also included the players doing double training sessions and then taking mandatory afternoon naps before being allowed home at 3pm.
But Overgoor felt that Ten Hag was singling him out for the hairdryer treatment.
He said: “At the end of pre-season, even other players said, ‘He’s shouting at you a lot’.
“So, I went to see him and he opened my eyes. He said, ‘If I am shouting at you, you get angry, you win more duels, you are more aggressive in a positive way.
“ ‘You are a player who is satisfied with 80, 90 per cent — but you can really improve so much. That is why I am screaming at you’.”
After that conversation, both men had a new understanding and Ten Hag showed his more human side as the season went on.
Meanwhile, the manager’s “boring” methods were bearing fruit on the pitch.
Overgoor added: “We recognised patterns in games from the 11 against zero training sessions and that gave us a lot of confidence.
“And more players started to think, ‘This coach is something special because what we see in training, we see in the games as well’.
“We started to believe more and to listen to exactly what he was going to say.”
Like Casemiro at United, Ten Hag described midfielder Overgoor as the “cement between the stones” of his Eagles team.
Overgoor would never compare himself to the five-time Champions League-winning Brazilian — but he and Casemiro both appreciate the relentless demands.
The Dutchman said: “As Ten Hag has done at United, he set high standards and wanted to improve every day.
“On Friday evening, we might win 3-0 and think, ‘OK, Saturday we’ll do a bit of running and relaxing, just recovery training’.
“But at 9am he would come to me and say, ‘Sjoerd, I want to show you some clips’.
“And the clips would be like I had lost 6-0!
“I saw an interview with Casemiro. He said that he had played with a lot of big coaches but added, ‘Ten Hag has the same attitude as me, every day he wants to improve’.”
Playing a similar formation and style to Ten Hag’s Red Devils, the Eagles improved so much that they won promotion to the Eredivisie, via the play-offs in 2013, after a 17-year absence.
But Ten Hag left to coach Bayern Munich’s B team.
And Overgoor said: “I have to thank him for my career.
We all knew, ‘This is a coach that makes me so much better’. He wanted to push us to another level.
“I improved a lot in everything. My level went up and that’s why I played a couple of years in the Eredivisie.
“A lot of us were really disappointed when he left the club.
“We all knew, ‘This is a coach that makes me so much better. If he stays, who knows where I can go?’ ”
The Eagles were relegated after two seasons in the top flight.
Overgoor played in Holland and Hungary before retiring at the age of 32 with a knee injury.
He is now in charge of the Under-13s at FC Twente, his and Ten Hag’s old club, while occasionally turning out for the fourth-tier amateur side HSC ’21, based in Ten Hag’s home town of Haaksbergen.
Overgoor added: “Some tips he gave me as a coach, I give to the players here as well.
“When I coach the older youth teams, I will use more of what he did. I shout but in my way. I explain why I’m doing it.
“He wanted to push us to another level and I want to do that with my players.”