Eric Ten Hag has already become a figure of interest. The Dutchman has an intriguing aura of professionalism and mystery thanks to his laconic press conferences and harsh field manner.
A former player who worked with Ten Hag on two different occasions has revealed information about what life is like under his care.
Sjord Overgur was released as a teenager from Twente when Ten Hag was a coach, but later reunited when the current Manchester United manager took charge of the Go Ehead Eagles.
Overgour told The Manchester Evening News about the successful season he enjoyed with Ten Hag, which came as a surprise given the initial contentious atmosphere between the pair.
After receiving the 12th number on the shirt and listening to Ten Hag’s brief conversations, Overgur was pleasantly awarded the starting position in the center of midfield.
The defensive midfielder described in detail the scrupulous nature of Ten Haga’s style in terms of discipline and organization.
“He wanted yellow jerseys together, orange ones together and blue ones together. His discipline was high in everything,” Overgour said.
“Another example: we had a little run in the woods at the second training session, and he gave us groups to split up.
“He told us that the first group had to finish in one minute and 50 seconds, and the second group had to finish in two minutes.
“I was in the second group, but we ran in one minute and 50 seconds, which was ahead of time.
“Ten Hag said, ‘No, if I say two minutes, it will be two minutes, not one minute and 50 seconds.’ At the beginning, we really thought, what the fuck is this? He’s crazy, but I already knew him.”
United’s players have already witnessed Ten Haga’s strictness when it comes to executing and executing specific orders.
After the shameful 4-0 defeat by Brentford at the start of the season, Ten Hag instructed each of his players to run 13.8 km the next day: the exact difference in the amount was between the two teams at the time of the defeat.
Ten Hag also joined this tedious exercise in recognition and solidarity with the horrifying spectacle.
Overgur reported more details about Ten Haga joining the club:
“He made a window in his office, and we thought it was because he wanted to see what we were doing in the lobby and in the locker room, mostly just to control, but later he explained the reason for that, which was actually brilliant. Overgour said.
“It was something I didn’t think about.
“He said that if you have a closed door in the office, the players might think he’s talking to important people, or they won’t know if he’s there or not, which makes it difficult to knock.”
This addition of a window to the manager’s office reminds us of Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous window in Carrington. The Irish Times journalist Michael Walker noted that Ferguson’s office “had a ceiling-to-ceiling window overlooking the training field.”
Overgour continued: “From behind the window, you could look inside the office and see it. The step to enter his office was much easier afterwards, I never thought about it like that. It’s him, it’s all about perfection, he thinks so in training and in everything that surrounds him.”
Asked what made Go Ahead Eagles become a force in the Eerste Divisie, taking the middle of the table in the season before Ten Haga’s arrival, Overgur replied that it was due to the large number of repetitions in training.
“He trained a lot with 11 players against zero, and he only needed diagonal balls, no straight balls, and every time we did that, he shouted “STOP!”.
“We would go back to the goalkeeper to start over, and he would give us samples. If we were playing on the left wingback, the left midfielder came for the ball, then the left winger goes deep, or something like that, and the move would have to be executed well.
“After that, he gave us a new sample. Every time we did something wrong, he shouted “STOP.”
Overgour recalls that it was very tiring, but the team began to appreciate that the movements were recognized during matches, it became second nature.
“From that point on, we liked it more, we could see the difference it made,” he said.
Ten Hag has already mentioned the modern training tool “automatism” several times as a coach of United. His use of this coaching technique highlights the mechanical power of football intelligence that he wants his United team to be.
You can read more about the automatism described by Overgoor here.
Although Overgour believed that his relationship with his former boss was rather cold, looking back, he realized the excellent personnel management that pushed the weak Eagles team to promotion.
“I said five weeks later that I thought he hated me, but no, he pushed me every time,” Overgour explained.
“There are a lot of coaches who didn’t push me in my career, maybe I was 20 percent less, and the whole team got 20 percent more and more when everyone really pushed. You can see that confidence is growing after a couple of months.
“Because he wanted everything to be perfect, he changed our thinking, we also wanted to be perfect and believed in his style. We knew how we had to play, so the confidence of the team became very high, and that’s why we got promoted.”
Buying Ten Haga’s obsession with perfectionism seems key if the current number of United players are looking to succeed under the Dutchman’s leadership.
Overgour explained how the team should respond to the training and management style of their new boss, noting that it is especially important that they be patient.
“If you look at all the teams he coached, the first four or five months, every month we played better, but the results weren’t as good as ninth or tenth place in Go Ahead Eagles.
“After the winter we got better, it was the same with Utrecht and Ajax. He needs time. Look at Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, the first year was not so good, but he needed time because he had a completely different approach to the club.
“Discipline is really important, I’ve already seen an interview with Bruno Fernandez where he talks about it. You can’t change it [results] right after last year, you can’t go from zero to perfection in just a couple of months — it takes time.”
Discipline. Desire. Definition. Three buzzwords that Overgur seems to imply are inherent in the character of Eric ten Hag.