Erik ten Hag discusses conversation with Johan Cruyff aged 13


Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has spoken about the time he met Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff as a child, revealing the circumstances that led to a televised conversation between the pair that has become famous in recent times thanks to social media.

Cruyff was both a pioneering player and then coach during an extraordinary football life. He found fame as the star of the Ajax team that won three consecutive European Cups in the early 1970s, before a world record transfer to Barcelona and leading Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final.

Upon returning to a struggling Barcelona as a coach in the late 1980s, Cruyff played a major role in rebuilding the club in the image of he Total Football principles that had underpinned Ajax’s successes nearly two decades earlier. He was also a proponent of developing young talent and made use of players produced at La Masia as a core of his 1992 European Cup-winning Dream Team.

Those principles still serve Barcelona to this day and clubs all over the world have tried to replicate them or create their own similar versions.

“Cruyff had the most influence on Dutch people and a big influence on world football. He was always thinking outside of the box, thinking creatively, doing the unexpected, but there was a plan behind it. That was one of Cruyff’s great skills,” Ten Hag told The Times.


Discussing his own encounter with Cruyff during his formative years in the early 1980s, when the legend was winding down his career back in his native Netherlands after two spells in the United States either side of a surprise stint at Levante at a time when he nearly joined Leicester.

“They invited ten teams from every region in the Netherlands,” explained Ten Hag, who hails from Twente and later had two separate spells with FC Twente.

“Cruyff taught us [from Twente] heading. He did dribbling with Amsterdam. With Rotterdam passing, with other teams crossing or finishing.

On their conversation, during which Ten Hag told Cruyff that coaches shouldn’t shout at young players too much, he said: “[NOS Sport] broadcast it. I was then in discussion with Cruyff in the studio. If [senior players] keep making the same mistakes, you should be able to confront them.”


On this edition of The Promised Land, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders and Rob Blanchette discuss Erik ten Hag’s comments regarding Mason Greenwood, the final weekend of the season, Diogo Costa, David De Gea & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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