As Manchester United saw their top four prospects turn to dust against Arsenal at the weekend, Erik ten Hag gave the club a taste of how they can bring the feel-good factor back to Old Trafford.
Following the confirmation of the Dutchman’s appointment as the Red Devils’ next permanent manager, he quickly discovered the scale of the task that awaits him when he arrives this summer.
Any hope that news of Ten Hag’s arrival would provide a boost to the out-of-form United squad was short-lived as they suffered a 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday night which all but ended their dreams of qualifying for the Champions. League.
Despite the story told by the scoreline, Ralf Rangnick’s men were actually the better side throughout the game, only for their continued defensive frailties to cost them once again.
Former Premier League striker Dean Ashton was at the Emirates Stadium for talkSPORT, and said the main difference between the teams was just that – Arsenal have developed a strong team spirit, while United have practically evaporated.
And the pundit admitted Ten Hag has his work cut out to improve the team mentality and morale of this Manchester United group.
“There seems to be a spirit between the players and the staff at Arsenal, and you just don’t see that at Manchester United,” he said.
“It’s Erik ten Hag’s job, to put a style of play that the players buy into, that makes them want to work for each other, that is identifiable for the players and actually quite simple.
“I think this group of players just needs some structure. They are quality players, they haven’t suddenly become so bad that we can’t keep them.
“I think a manager who goes there and inspires those players will find that there’s actually a decent team of players there.
“With some players not wanting to be at the club and new players coming in with the right attitude, I think things can change a lot faster than people think.”
Meanwhile, Ten Hag has shown United players what they can expect under his leadership, revealing how he has tried to improve the team spirit at Ajax this week as they continue their tilt for the title.
The Dutch giants cruised to a 1-0 victory over NEC on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Eredivisie table.
And it came after a rather novel team-building drill idea from Ten Hag, who took his players for a play session.
Yes, video games.
“The atmosphere within your team is key,” Ten Hag told a Dutch reporter ahead of Saturday’s clash.
“That’s why I did something different with the team this week.”
The interviewer asked, “What did you do?”
Ten Hag replied, “We went to play, all together.”
The interviewer asked again, “You did what?”
“The real game,” said Ten Hag. “The E-Sport way!”
So, are the fun times on their way to Old Trafford?
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