Ajax and Manchester United – different stages of the same project

by Robbie Dunne

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 20.32.46The sentimentality that you sense from Manchester United’s appointment of Ryan Giggs as their manager for the remaining four games of the season is not without reason. Giggs arrives as the manager of (still) one of the biggest clubs in the world with zero experience of football management.

His coaching past lays solely with the 10 months he put in under David Moyes and despite playing for Sir Alex Ferguson for close to quarter of a century, there is no reason the believe that he is the man to guide United in the long run. We don’t know what his philosophy is, don’t know what his preferred formation is, and are not sure as to how he might handle his first managerial crisis.

The men he has appointed as his coaches are in the same boat as far as their resumés are concerned. Nicky Butt held the manager’s position of the Manchester United U-19 squad and Scholes was an assistant coach of United’s U-21′s but aside from that, experience is scarce.

Despite having experienced comparatively more time at the coaching coal-face questions remain over Phil Neville’s coaching ability, particularly given his association with Moyes’ failed tenure. However a story Alex Ferguson’s autobiography where he tells of the night he explained to the younger Neville brother that he would be selling him in an attempt to further his career, while Phil’s wife, Julie, sat in the car in the driveway crying, you can understand just what he can bring to the table in terms of loyalty and passion. And alongside Nicky Butt, who is another die-hard United man and Scholes who returned from retirement to help the Red Devils out of a midfield crisis last year there will be no shortage of coaches who know the ‘Fergie’ way.

When results are not driven by a figure relating to the New York Stock Exchange, it means something. When the players are playing for a man who they believe has their best interests at heart and understands the club’s ambition and importance to its millions of fans, the fans sing louder and the players run harder.

That is not to suggest that David Moyes was in it for the money, but it is theory shared by many that he just did not ‘get’ Manchester United or its philosophies.

There is a case that we can look at that is quite similar to the one Manchester United are in at present. Whether they are aware of it or not, Ajax and Manchester United are at different phases of a similar project.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 20.35.09The Amsterdam-based giants have just won the Eredivisie championship with former player Frank de Boer at the helm as head coach and manager. With him he has former players Martin Stekelenburg, Denis Bergkamp and Jaap Stam as coaches.

Having served as technique coach, Marc Overmars is currently the Director of Football, Edwin van der Saar is the Public Relations manager and Wim Jonk as the ‘offspring’ manager.

While the Eredivisie may not be as competitive as the Premier League and Ajax, perhaps, not as big a club as Manchester United, the principles remain the same.

Ajax, who boast the best youth academy in the world have no less than 69 graduates from their academy in division 1 football around the world. In the report written by Football Observatory, they rank the top 20 talent producing clubs in Europe and Manchester United, tellingly, do not feature.

This is fitting, given the fact that United’s Class of ’92 are now taking over at a time when United will look to their youth graduates of old to make up their coaching staff.

While the current coaching staff at Ajax have plenty of experience having held roles as Ajax Under-19 manager (de Boer, Bergkamp), Netherlands Assistant Manager (de Boer), PEC Zwolle Coach Manager (Stam), the direction the club are going in and the presence of former players who understand the club is one of the main reasons for their resurgence in European football and why the look set to further dominate the Eredivisie and also progress further in the Champions League next year under their tutelage.

Players like Davy Klassen and Joel Veltman have been garnering attention of late given their emergence as world-class talents and you have to put a lot of this down to De Boer and his coaching staff.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 20.37.57Danny Welbeck’s wish to leave Manchester came as a suprise, of sorts. A Manchester boy who loves the club, but couldn’t seem to find the motivation under Moyes to want to stay. He can now grow, and feel like progress is being made under men who went through the same growing pains he is currently experiencing, and that means something.

Manchester United looked outside of Old Trafford for their previous manager in David Moyes, and with that chapter now firmly closed, it is of utmost importance for Manchester United to give Giggs and his staff every chance to succeed.

If you can’t have Alex Ferguson on the sideline shouting instructions, why not get the next best thing with a combined 59 years of playing experience under the greatest manager that England, if not the World, has ever seen.

Ajax are doing it and it seems to be working.

1 Response

  1. Gareth Rowlands says:

    Stekelenburg? As in the current Fulham Goalkeeper

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