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Appointing Steve McClaren is a shrewd move by Erik ten Hag after winning first Man Utd battle

By David McDonnell

Manchester United have long been accused of living in the past and trying to recreate it in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

From appointing a Ferguson acolyte and fellow Scot in David Moyes, to handing the reigns to former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have found it hard to emerge from the shadow of their most successful manager.

The appointment of Erik ten Hag is a bold step away from that mindset, and while his decision to recruit Ferguson's former No.2 Steve McClaren could be seen as another hankering to the past, it is actually a shrewd move by the outgoing Ajax boss.

When Moyes arrived from Everton to succeed Ferguson in 2013, one of his biggest mistakes was jettisoning Ferguson's entire backroom team and bringing in his own, less experienced, coaching staff. Assistant manager Mike Phelan, first-team coach Renee Mulenseteen and goalkeeping coach Eric Steele were all dispensed with, in favour of Steve Round, Phil Neville, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods, with disastrous consequences.

Moyes and his staff did not see out the season, United finished seventh, missing out on European football altogether that season, with many pointing to the purge of Ferguson's entire coaching team as a key factor in the calamitous campaign.

Erik ten Hag and Steve McClaren during their time together at FC Twente (PA)

Ten Hag will ensure he does not make the same mistake, hence his decision to appoint McClaren, whom he worked under at FC Twente, to his United staff. While ten Hag will bring in those he formed a close alliance with at Ajax, including Mitchell van der Gaag, recruiting McClaren is a clever move from a coach who knows he is making a huge step up to manage a club of United's stature, with its unique demands and expectation on a global scale.

McClaren, 61, was Ferguson's assistant for two years, helping United to the Treble in 1999, before embarking on a nomadic managerial career that included his lamentable spell in charge of England. Yet McClaren seems the ideal sounding board for ten Hag at United, someone who knows the club and who can be an invaluable source of advice for the 52-year-old as he settles in at Old Trafford.

There was initially resistance from the United hierarchy to ten Hag's wish to bring McClaren back, no doubt fearing further accusations of a failure to let go of the past. But ten Hag, who appears to have won the battle to enlist McClaren, knows what and who he needs around him, if he is to succeed at United and not suffer the same fate as his predecessors in the post-Ferguson era.

Having McClaren by his side will give him the best possible chance of achieving that goal.

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Dive Deeper:
Steve McClaren's Man Utd solution as "5 or 6 bad ones" set for exit under Erik ten Hag
Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant is poised for a return to Old Trafford as a coach under Erik ten Hag,…
Man Utd legend Edwin van der Sar's message to Erik ten Hag after Ajax win title
Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar thanked Erik ten Hag for his service after the Manchester United-bound manager secured…
Erik ten Hag makes declaration Man Utd fans want to hear after Ajax win title
Erik ten Hag wrapped up his third Eredivisie title in four completed seasons with Ajax on Wednesday, making a post-match…
Erik ten Hag meets with Man Utd director to begin planning for next season
New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag held a planning meeting with football director John Murtough in Amsterdam on Thursday,…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Erik ten Hag meets Man Utd director to begin planning for next season
Ajax boss Ten Hag will take the reins at Old Trafford in the summer after signing a three-year deal
Erik ten Hag's Man Utd backroom staff set to be finalised with first agreement reached
Erik ten Hag has been busy finalising his backroom staff at Manchester United, with Ajax assistant Mitchell van der Gaag…
Get all your news in one place