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Erik ten Hag vs Louis van Gaal: Is the new Man Utd manager’s Dutch revolution the right direction for the club?

Erik ten Hag became only the second Dutchman to be appointed as Manchester United manager in May, with Louis van Gaal the other in 2014.

The former is currently out in Australia with his squad in preparation for the new season which begins on August 7, when the Red Devils welcome Brighton to Old Trafford in their opening game of the Premier League 2022/23 campaign.

Key takeaways:

Louis van Gaal guided Manchester United to the FA Cup in 2016 and one fourth-place finish in his two seasons at the club.
Erik ten Hag and Van Gaal experienced success while in charge of Ajax.
Both managers have been in charge of other clubs in the Eredivisie.

Ten Hag saw his team beat rivals Liverpool 4-0 in Thailand on July 12, while also guiding United to a 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory on Friday.

The United boss will be hoping for a better start to his career at Old Trafford than Van Gaal, who won just one of his first five league games in charge.

Despite the poor start, Van Gaal guided the Red Devils to a fourth-place finish at the end of the 2014/15 season after making five first-team signings, including the arrival of Luke Shaw and then record-signing Angel Di Maria.

Ten Hag has also been tasked with making significant changes to United’s squad, with the club finishing sixth in the Premier League last campaign with 58 points – their lowest in the competition’s history.

The Dutchman has already signed three players this summer and will be looking to add more new faces to his team before the transfer window closes on September 1.

Both managers tasted success before being appointed the Red Devils manager, but have United made a mistake in opting to hire Ten Hag?

With that being said, takes a look at whether the Dutchman’s appointment is the right direction for the Red Devils and how he compares to Van Gaal.

First transfer window

When a new manager arrives at a club their first transfer window is always assessed as to whether they can be successful in the role and Ten Hag and Van Gaal are now different.

The latter was appointed as United boss in July 2014 and allowed established players such as Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Matic, Patrice Evra and Darren Fletcher leave for free, while selling Danny Welbeck to Arsenal for £16m and Wilfried Zaha to Crystal Palace for £6m.

Van Gaal went on a spending spree in his first summer at the Red Devils, signing Ander Herrera, Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Di Maria and Daley Blind for his first-team squad for a combined £145.5m.

However, things seem to be a lot different at United now, with Ten Hag forking out £71.7m on Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martine, while Christian Eriksen has joined the club on a free transfer.

Ten Hag’s summer spending could come close to that of Van Gaal’s first at the Red Devils if Frenkie de Jong joins the club. According to multiple reports, United and Barcelona have agreed a £63m deal for the midfielder.

Success before United

Ten Hag’s arrival at Old Trafford comes after he won back-to-back Eredivisie titles at Ajax, as well as the Dutch Cup in 2019 and 2021 and the Johan Cruyff Shield in 2019.

The 52-year-old’s only other success as a manager came when in charge of Bayern Munich II, when he guided them to the fourth tier of German football in 2014.

It can be argued, as established as he is as a manager, his success is minimal to past Red Devils bosses, including Van Gaal.

The latter joined United after coming third at the 2014 World Cup with the Netherlands, but it was prior to his second stint with the national team that he experienced much success as a manager.

In total, Van Gaal has won 18 pieces of silverware before being appointed as Red Devils boss, most notably lifting the Champions League at Ajax in 1995.

Longest tenure at a club

It is becoming less likely that a manager will remain in a club job for a significant period of time due to football owners’ demand for short-term success.

Ten Hag has been in charge of four teams before being appointed United manager, with his tenure at Ajax being his longest – four-and-a-half years at the Dutch club. He will be hoping he will receive patience from the Red Devils board after joining on a three-year deal.

However, things don’t always seem to go to plan, as experienced by Van Gaal. The Dutchman, who was 62 when he was appointed as United boss, also signed a three-year deal at Old Trafford, but was dismissed after two seasons.

The Netherlands head coach also boasts his longest reign in management at Ajax. He was their assistant manager between July 1, 1989 and September 28, 1991 before being promoted to role as boss on the latter mentioned date. He would stay in charge of the Dutch club for just under six years before taking the role as Barcelona manager.


It’s hard to judge whether Ten Hag’s appointment is a good one given he is yet to take charge for a full season, however, his style of play and transfer business so far shows he is prepared to sign less established players to fit his system, rather than big names.

He has reached the semi-final of the Champions League and experienced winning silverware at Ajax, so he has the right mentality for the Red Devils to win trophies.

Overall, this is a case of waiting to see how United get on this season, especially if they can keep hold of Cristiano Ronaldo and the squad take to Ten Hag’s philosophies. If so, the Red Devils could very well be a success under him.

 Author: Aiden Beswick

Aiden Beswick is a journalist covering men's and women's football. He also has interests in professional wrestling and netball and has interviewed stars from each sport. He has covered several big sporting event, including Euro 2020 and the 2020 Olympic Games.