Pressing drills, patient build-up and tight-space triangles
Erik ten Hag has taken on a huge task at Manchester United. Few Premier League teams looked more poorly coached last season than United and Ten Hag is seeking to give them the playing identity they have so badly lacked for too long as he bids to reshape the club’s ailing fortunes.
His first summer in charge has already presented plenty of challenges, from the absence for family reasons of star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who also wants to leave Old Trafford, to the frustrating wait for new signings such as Frenkie de Jong, Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez and Antony, players expected to be integral to the way Ten Hag plans to play.
Still, Ten Hag has been wasting no time implementing his ideas since the first wave of United players reported back just over a fortnight ago and the training is stepping up on the club’s pre-season tour.
United are due to play Liverpool at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Tuesday in Ten Hag’s first game in charge and Telegraph Sport had the opportunity to watch their full, hour-long evening session, which provided a valuable insight into how the players are adapting to the Dutchman’s methods.
One of United’s chronic failings has been their lack of patience and poor, rushed decision-making in the final third. Fans grew exasperated watching United routinely trying to force an opening that was not there, rather than retain possession and switch the play in a bid to disorganise the opposition and create the space to exploit.
The middle of Ten Hag’s three main drills on Monday focused on working the ball from side to side and urging his players to pick the right moment to strike in an 8 v 5 set-up.
In one instance, the ball was worked side to side four times before an eventual cross from near the left by-line was scrambled clear and the stand out moment came when, after another patient build up, the ball was eventually shifted from left to right where Jadon Sancho, on the edge of the penalty area, clipped over a fine cross that Marcus Rashford thundered home with a towering header, a combination Ten Hag will be eager to hone.