Mitchell van der Gaag is ready to join Manchester United as assistant to new manager Erik ten Hag, but the Ajax number two will be a relatively unknown name to most fans
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incoming Manchester United Boss Erik ten Hag’s assistant at Old Trafford will be Mitchell van der Gaag and the hands-on coach will play a crucial role in the summer convulsion at Old Trafford.
Van der Gaag went into coaching after an 18-year playing career in Holland, Scotland, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. He is a former Netherlands Under-21 international who started his coaching career with Maritimo reserve team just a few kilometers away Cristiano Ronaldo ‘s childhood home on the island of Madeira.
After being promoted to first-team manager at Maritimo, he joined Belenenses. Resuming his career after his health issue, Van der Gaag spent a brief stint with Ermis in Cyprus before returning to Holland with FC Eindhoven, Excelsior Rotterdam and NAC Breda. He became close to Ten Hag when he was appointed manager of Jong Ajax, the Amsterdam club’s youth team.
He helped form a formidable backroom team with former Netherlands internationals Michael Reiziger and Winston Bogarde. Ajax have tried to persuade Van der Gaag to turn down United’s offer but his relationship with Ten Hag won the argument. Fluent in five languages - Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French – Van der Gaag was a superb young centre-back who seemed destined to play at the highest level as he stormed through the ranks at PSV Eindhoven until suffering a difficult one suffered an injury that sidelined him for more than two years.
He also played against Sparta Rotterdam, Scottish club Motherwell, FC Utrecht and Maritimo. Van der Gaag’s father, Wim, was a famous sports radio commentator in Holland. His wife Isabelle is the daughter of Jan Gisbers, the cycling coach who helped both Pedro Delgado and Greg LeMond win the Tour de France. The couple have four children and the family’s main residence is still in Portugal as sons Jordan and Luca were signed at Benfica’s youth academy.
Van der Gaag has built a reputation for developing young players at Ajax – a trait that will resonate at United. Ten Hag is a tracksuit manager who leads every training session. But Van der Gaag offers him a second pair of eyes and has excellent leadership skills. He usually watches games from high up in the stands to get a better view of the game but keeps in touch with the Ajax bench.
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Van der Gaag explained his philosophy in an interview in Holland before returning to his home country. He warned that there is no hiding place for players under his supervision. Van der Gaag said: “I used to have discussions with the whole team, but as a field coach I’m moving away from that more and more. Players increasingly prefer one-on-one conversations. It takes a lot more time and energy, but I feel like I can reach my players better that way.
“I sit down with players every week and we look at how he played along with the footage. That way I can ask a lot more and you also get more responsibility from the player. They can hide in a group. It’s not just fair-weather talks either. If I’m not satisfied, I’ll say so. Then everyone will know where they stand.
“I talk to everyone. If I don’t do that and we suddenly have to get a replacement, I don’t want to be the first to pay attention to that player. You don’t want a player to think, ‘Oh, he suddenly has time for me, now I’m suddenly important.’ I’m quite calm by nature – but I don’t run away from conflict either.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/man-utd-new-assistant-manager-26721432 Who is Mitchell van der Gaag? Erik ten Hag's new Man Utd assistant plays key role