ANDY VAN DER MEYDE knew Erik ten Hag was destined for the top when they first crossed paths at FC Twente in the year Manchester United won the Treble.
Old Trafford’s new manager was in the twilight of his playing days when he linked up with Ajax’s budding loanee in 1999.
And it was immediately clear to winger Van der Meyde, then 19, that Ten Hag — almost ten years his senior — had a knack for coaching.
Not content with only focusing on keeping strikers at bay, former centre-back Ten Hag was sowing the seeds for a bright future in the dugout.
Even though Fred Rutten was Twente’s manager, Ten Hag was already making his presence felt by calling the shots and constantly barking out tactical instructions.
Former Holland international and Everton star Van der Meyde told SunSport: “Erik is from the east of Holland — very down-to-earth.
“He’s kind, straight and honest — but he can also be aggressive. All he wants is to win while making the team better.
“I played with him at Twente after joining on loan from Ajax when I was 19 and he was around 30.
“At half-time he was always talking, saying, ‘We should do it like this, we should do it like that’.
“He was the one talking with the manager, figuring out if it was better to do it this or that way.
“Already, as a player, he was busy coaching the team.”
Van der Meyde, 42, says Ten Hag, 52, wants to play entertaining football.
And he warned United’s flops that winning alone will not be enough — they must do so with style.
He added: “Erik doesn’t want to play bad football. He’s offensive-minded, he sets his teams up to attack.
“For that I’d compare him to Peter Bosz and Ronald Koeman.
“Erik wants to develop himself, the players and the team. He wants to win games but also make the fans happy with good football.
“For him, entertainment is very important.”
Van der Meyde even compared Ten Hag to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp — adding that the Dutchman has no qualms about dropping stars if they fail to follow his orders.
He added: “He’s such a good manager who develops a relationship with his players and finds time for them if they need to talk.
“You can see that also with Klopp. Erik gives a lot of attention to the players and, as a result, they will do a lot more for him than if he was distant and only their manager, without holding private talks.
“But it doesn’t matter what his name is. If a player doesn’t do what he asks, he will be sitting on the bench.”
Van der Meyde claims United’s kids will still get a big chance under the former Ajax chief.
One of the major beneficiaries of his arrival is Donny van de Beek, who rose to stardom under him in Amsterdam but found the going tough at Old Trafford after his 2020 move and went on loan to Everton.
Van der Meyde said: “You saw Donny at Ajax, what he can do in the Champions League. He never gives up but all he needs is a real chance to show what he can do.
“I know that if he gets the trust of the manager, he will score lots of goals and get many assists.
“And it’s great for the academy that a gaffer like Erik comes because they will get an opportunity to develop themselves and contribute to making United a big team again.
“The way the team is playing right now is a disaster — but if the club let Ten Hag do his work, he will make them great again.”