Future of Man United: Van Nistelrooy, Hake, and Ten Hag alliances

Future of Man United: Van Nistelrooy, Hake, and Ten Hag alliances

The identity – and nationality – of the two men set to join Manchester United’s coaching staff this summer offer a telling insight into the changes taking shape at Old Trafford under Erik ten Hag.

As Ten Hag continues to discuss a new contract after co-owners Ineos decided to keep him in charge, United’s willingness to bring in two Dutchmen as his assistants hints strongly at the fact that Ruud van Nistelrooy and Rene Hake have been handpicked by the manager himself.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe said he wanted to give Ten Hag the right environment to succeed and, in that sense, he has been good to his word. If Van Nistelrooy and Hake join United – and it remains an if at this stage – it will have the blessing of Ineos, but first and foremost it will be Ten Hag’s choice.

After a rocky first six months under his new employers, the 54-year-old is being empowered to refresh his coaching staff and effectively hit the reset button in co-operation with Ineos sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford and United’s new technical director Jason Wilcox. It’s safe to assume that United’s incoming chief executive Omar Berrada and prospective new sporting director Dan Ashworth were part of that process too.

This feels like more than just a reshuffle of the coaching team, however. It is the result of months of fact-finding and analysis, primarily carried out by Brailsford and Wilcox, at Carrington. It is the outcome of talks between Ten Hag and an Ineos delegation led by Brailsford at the manager’s holiday base in Ibiza earlier this month.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is set to recruit two new faces to his backroom staff

Go Ahead Eagles manager Rene Hake (pictured) is lined up to join the Dutchman at United

Ruud van Nistelrooy looks set to seal a sensational return to Manchester United as a coach

Fellow Dutch coaches Rene Hake (left) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (right) are set to join Ten Hag

Ultimately, it will represent a collaborative effort designed to put everyone at the club on the same page.

Ever since the Glazer family handed over control of football operations to Ratcliffe at the turn of the year, there have been three factions at Old Trafford: United, Ineos and Ten Hag’s camp.

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Now, after months of tension and the drama surrounding his position, it’s hoped that the club can move forward with a clear strategy.

There are still a number of moving parts before anything can be finalised: first of all, Ten Hag’s new contract, which is expected to be confirmed following positive talks. Secondly, an agreement with Van Nistelrooy and Hake to become his new assistants. And, thirdly, a resolution over the futures of current coaches Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren.

It’s hoped that Darren Fletcher will accept a place in the new set-up after giving up his title of technical director to Wilcox, but forwards coach Benni McCarthy will leave when his contract runs out on Sunday.

There could be other changes to the coaching, fitness and analysis departments, but it’s understood that the majority of the staff will stay the same. The plan is to have everything in place before the first group of non-international players report for pre-season training at Carrington on July 8. United face Rosenborg in Trondheim a week later and Rangers at Murrayfield on July 20 before going on tour to the US.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos team decided that Ten Hag is in fact the man to manage United

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos team decided that Ten Hag is in fact the man to manage United

Man United's FA Cup triumph over rivals Man City at Wembley helped save the Dutchman's job

Man United’s FA Cup triumph over rivals Man City at Wembley helped save the Dutchman’s job

Benni McCarthy is set to leave his first-team role at Old Trafford when his contract runs out

Benni McCarthy is set to leave his first-team role at Old Trafford when his contract runs out

Ten Hag’s contract should be signed long before then. It looked a remote possibility when United went into the FA Cup final against Manchester City in May against a backdrop of Ineos interviewing other managers. But victory at Wembley and the decision, following an end-of-season review, that he remained the best man for the job convinced Ratcliffe and his cohorts to offer the Dutchman a new deal and work with him on reshaping the coaching staff.

Despite the track records of Van Nistelrooy and Hake as managers in their own right, it’s understood there is no suggestion of succession planning in United’s thinking should the problems that put Ten Hag’s job in jeopardy resurface next season. They are the men he has chosen to have his back, it seems, not a looming threat on his shoulder.

Van Nistelrooy needs no introduction to United fans. One of the greatest United strikers of the modern era, he scored 150 goals in 219 games for the club between 2001 and 2006.

If the 47-year-old does now return in a coaching role, it’s hoped that would have an energising effect not only on the squad but the club as a whole. It stands to reason that he would take over McCarthy’s role coaching the forwards as part of a wider scope as joint assistant with Hake.

Van Nistelrooy has a managerial pedigree of his own, having led PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch Cup and second place in the Eredivisie in his one season in charge before quitting due to a lack of support. He was the frontrunner to fill the Burnley vacancy until United’s interest came to light.

Hake, too, is prepared to give up a managerial job to join Ten Hag’s coaching staff. The Go Ahead Eagles boss has just led the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history, but his departure is now seen as inevitable.

Ten Hag (right) has closely followed Hake's progress and now wants him to head to Manchester

Ten Hag (right) has closely followed Hake’s progress and now wants him to head to Manchester

The pair have been close friends for years having started working together back at FC Twente

The pair have been close friends for years having started working together back at FC Twente

The 52-year-old previously worked with Ten Hag in the youth academy at Twente, and both men have also coached Utrecht and Go Ahead Eagles. Hake, whose experience includes being sporting director at FC Emmen, will not mince his words if a video on social media of him berating his players at Utrecht is anything to go by.

‘After our common period at Twente, we have always kept in touch,’ Ten Hag told Voetbal International last year. ‘We meet up and call each other. You talk about private matters, how things are going at home and with the children.

‘But usually it is about football. At Twente, he was incredibly driven, ambitious, but also extremely convinced of himself. A trainer who worked very methodically.’

Even successful managers look to reshuffle their backroom staff on a regular basis to inject fresh energy and ideas. Sir Alex Ferguson had no fewer than seven assistants during his Old Trafford reign.

After emerging from an often turbulent first two years at Old Trafford, Ten Hag’s willingness to consider change should not be seen as a slight on Van der Gaag or McClaren. If either goes, they can do so with their head held high after helping Ten Hag reach three cup finals and win two trophies.

Van der Gaag appears to be closer to the exit at the moment. The 52-year-old managed in Portugal, Cyprus and Holland before becoming Ten Hag’s No.2 at Ajax, and is said to have ambitions to be his own man again.

Mitchell van der Gaag (left) and Steve McClaren (right) have assisted Ten Hag since his arrival

Mitchell van der Gaag (left) and Steve McClaren (right) have assisted Ten Hag since his arrival

He has been a key figure since following Ten Hag to Old Trafford in 2022. Both men have an abrasive style which can come across as unsympathetic at times, but it’s understood that he’s more popular than is sometimes suggested.

Indeed, it was their idea to inspire the United players before the Cup Final with letters and videos from loved ones at the team hotel in Mayfair. Van der Gaag’s video montage of United’s highs and lows, accompanied by U2’s hit One and Al Pacino’s rousing speech from Any Given Sunday has since found its way onto the internet. If Wembley proves to be his farewell, as seems likely, it is quite a way to go out.

It’s understood that discussions are ongoing with McClaren over a role next season, although it remains to be seen if the 63-year-old former England boss – who previously worked with Ferguson at United and Ten Hag at Twente – will stay on.

The same applies to Fletcher although United are keen to keep the Scot given his strong relationship with the players and the respect he commands within the dressing-room. That is especially true with young players like Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo after Fletcher smoothed their transition from the academy to the first-team in his role as technical director.

It’s hoped that former Red Devil star Darren Fletcher will accept a place in the new set-up

It’s hoped that former Red Devil star Darren Fletcher will accept a place in the new set-up

Fletcher’s remit became more hands-on, particularly after Eric Ramsay left United’s coaching staff to join Minnesota in February, before Wilcox assumed his title in April. But it’s quite possible Fletcher could continue with similar responsibilities in a new position.

McCarthy, meanwhile, will be missed as much for his rapport with the players as his work with the forwards, which included playing a key role in Marcus Rashford scoring 30 goals in Ten Hag’s first season. Players are said to have often confided in the South African when there was friction within the squad.

However, he was only given a two-year contract – unlike Van der Gaag and McClaren who have another 12 months – and is now expected to pursue a managerial job.

McCarthy will move on and so will United. It’s been a bumpy ride under Ratcliffe so far, but that was always going to be the case. The hope now is that the club moves forward with a new strategy – and, more than likely, a few new faces.

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