Erik ten Hag has revealed he was told not to take the Manchester United job before taking over at Old Trafford as it was deemed an “impossible” job.
The Dutch manager has faced a turbulent start to his second season at the club with six defeats in their opening 15 Premier League games, while they face an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages with one group game remaining.
United have won four out of their last six games which has resurrected their top-four hopes – but Ten Hag’s side remain unconvincing both on and off the pitch.
“Everyone was telling me, ‘you can’t succeed in that job’. They said it was impossible. Me? I wanted the challenge,” the 53-year-old told the United We Stand fanzine.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was such a great club with such a great fanbase.
“People love Manchester United, or they are against Manchester United. I like clubs like this. Ajax was like this.”
United took points from a top-half opponent for the first time this season with a deserved 2-1 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford on Wednesday, having endured days of reports of dressing-room disharmony on the back of Saturday’s poor defeat at Newcastle.
After the Chelsea game, Ten Hag insisted the issues surrounding the club this season – including their worst start to a campaign from their first 15 games in six decades, as well as various off-field problems – had never reached crisis point despite the noise coming from outside Old Trafford.
“We started very well, very dynamic, brave and proactive,” he said in his post-match press conference. “We created a lot of chances in that moment, and could have been two or three up.
“We dominated the opponent in and out of possession. It was very enjoyable how the team played. It hasn’t felt like a crisis for us. We’ve kept calm, worked on the process and we know where we have to build and what we have to build on.
“We’re going in the right direction, we don’t get distracted from criticism around us, we are very critical on ourselves and know we are not quickly satisfied, we want to do better.
“If we do things badly, we want to put that right and want to keep going in the process. The season is long, we have to improve a lot if we want to be successful, but this team is capable of that.”
Ten Hag: Man Utd won’t spend a lot in January
The Christmas and New Year period will bring a fascinating few weeks at Old Trafford, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment into the club set to be finalised next week, which comes just before the January transfer window opens.
But despite an unconvincing start to the season, Ten Hag does not think United will spend big in the winter window.
“I don’t think [we will spend a lot],” he said. “As a club, you have to look for improvements, so if you can find better and it’s realistic financially and with Financial Fair Play, the club has to go with it.
“But most of the time you don’t attract the best players in the winter.”
Man Utd’s next eight games
December 9: Bournemouth (H), Premier League, kick-off 3pm
December 12: Bayern Munich (H), Champions League, kick-off 8pm
December 17: Liverpool (A), Premier League, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 4.30pm
December 23: West Ham (A), Premier League, kick-off 12.30pm
December 26: Aston Villa (H), Premier League, kick-off 8pm
December 30: Nottingham Forest (A), Premier League, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 5.30pm
January 8: Wigan Athletic (A), FA Cup third round, kick-off 8.15pm
January 14: Tottenham (H), Premier League, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 4.30pm