Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag: His best moments at Ajax

Tom Gott
Ten Hag enjoyed plenty of success with Ajax
Ten Hag enjoyed plenty of success with Ajax / Soccrates Images/GettyImages
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The Erik ten Hag era at Ajax is coming to an end following the announcement that he will take his talents to Manchester United at the end of the season.

His five-year spell in the dugout of the Johan Cruyff Arena will live long in the memory, with Ten Hag restoring Ajax's reputation as major European players with some of the most iconic results in recent history.

Let's dive in and look at some of his best moments.


1. First Klassieker victory (21/01/18)

Ten Hag's first Eredivisie game could hardly have been a bigger one. Arch rivals Feyenoord came to town on January 21, 2018, and all eyes were on how the new boss would cope in the hostile Klassieker environment.

Immediately deploying his favoured 4-3-3 setup, things could hardly have gone better for Ten Hag. Donny van de Beek opened the scoring from a tight angle shortly after the break, and just a few minutes later, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar headed home a second.

The boss leapt in the air as Huntelaar sealed the victory, clearly aware that his reign could not have gotten off to a better start.

2. Tadic joins from Southampton for £10m (03/07/18)

Nobody cared when Ajax signed Dusan Tadic from Southampton in 2018. The Serb had started to fade away in the Premier League and a £10m fee was agreed to take him to the Eredivisie.

In his final season in England, Tadic managed seven goals and four assists. In his debut year in Amsterdam, those numbers flew up to 38 goals and 23 assists. A masterstroke from Ten Hag.

The 29-year-old's arrival was a clear success on paper and proved to be the catalyst for one of the greatest seasons in Ajax's recent history.

3. Statement draw with Bayern (02/10/18)

The 2018/19 season was Ten Hag's first full year at Ajax. Expectations weren't particularly high as the team had lost both the league and the cup toward the end of the previous season. On the European stage, they were expected to make very little noise.

When Bayern Munich came to town in October, Ajax were expected to get absolutely battered - especially after Mats Hummels opened the scoring for the Germans early on.

Clearly, Ten Hag hadn't seen the script. His Ajax side were the better team for the majority of the game and got the least they deserved through Noussair Mazraoui's equaliser. Still, at that point, many saw this result as a fluke.

4. Repeating the feat (12/12/18)

Ten Hag's chance to prove they deserved their point against Bayern came as the Bundesliga giants jetted into Amsterdam a few months later, expecting to avenge their earlier slip-up.

As the 3-3 scoreline suggests, it was a belter of a game. Bayern took the lead through Robert Lewandowski but Ajax fought back with a double from Dusan Tadic that had them 2-1 up with just three minutes to go.

Bayern struck twice in the dying embers to bring them within seconds of a win, but left-back Nicolas Tagliafico struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time to ensure Ajax went undefeated against the German giants.

5. Dominance over Real Madrid (05/03/19)

Here we are, the best moment in the Ten Hag era.

Ajax were drawn against reigning European champions Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, and after they fell 2-1 at home in the first leg, most fans assumed order had finally been restored and this plucky Ajax side were officially out of their depth. How would they survive at the Santiago Bernabeu?

As it turned out, they'd do alright.

Hakim Ziyech and David Neres both scored inside 18 minutes and Dusan Tadic netted a third shortly after the hour mark. Marco Asensio pulled one back with 20 minutes to go but Lasse Schöne netted almost straight after to seal an emphatic victory.

It was overwhelming dominance. These lovable underdogs had been invited to perhaps the biggest stage in Europe and absolutely ran the show. Ten Hag, and a lot of his squad, were officially on the map.

6. Upsetting the Eredivisie title race (31/03/19)

Despite their stunning European performances, Ajax were actually behind in the Eredivisie title race for the majority of the 2018/19 season and looked to have blown their chances of winning when they fell 1-0 to AZ Alkmaar with nine games to go. Leaders PSV Eindhoven were five points clear.

Ajax would have the chance to close the gap when they met PSV a week after, and they would produce a top performance as they romped to a 3-1 win, holding on as they played the final 30 minutes with ten men.

That win took them to with two, and Ten Hag's side would go on to claim the Eredivisie title for the first time since 2014 as their unbeaten end to the campaign - coupled with some mixed form from PSV - took Ajax back to the top of the mountain.

7. Keeping the dream alive against Juventus (14/04/19)

The next obstacle on the European track was Juventus, who came to Amsterdam for the first leg of the quarter-final and picked up a 1-1 draw.

Most fancied Juventus to finish the job at home, but again, Ajax weren't playing ball. Cristiano Ronaldo put the Italians ahead but Van de Beek levelled soon after, and it would be future Juve man Matthijs de Ligt who delivered the final blow in the second half to add another illustrious scalp to Ajax's collection.

Next up, Tottenham.

8. One foot in the final (30/04/19)

Having survived Bayern and beaten both Real and Juventus, Ajax quietly entered their semi-final against Tottenham as marginal favourites.

Just 15 minutes into the first leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Van de Beek put Ajax ahead and Ten Hag's side would bring that lead back to Amsterdam for the return leg.

That second leg saw Ajax go 2-0 up at half-time, but Spurs fought back and tied things up on the hour mark. The Dutch side were still ahead on aggregate, but Lucas Moura killed the dream by scoring in injury time to put Spurs through to the final on away goals.

9. Record-breaking victory (24/10/20)

The most emphatic victory of the Ten Hag era came in October 2020, when Ajax rocked up to VVV-Venlo and scored 13 unanswered goals.

Ten Hag fielded a weakened team, believe it or not, and it was young striker Lassina Traore who stole the show with a return of five goals and three assists. Not bad.

They were only 4-0 up at half-time, but a red card for VVV shortly after the break saw the floodgates open.

10. Haller joins from West Ham for £20m (08/01/21)

Ajax surprisingly broke their transfer record when they spent £20m on West Ham flop Sebastien Haller in January 2021. The Ivorian had bagged ten goals in 48 games in England, and most couldn't understand why Ajax felt he was worth that sort of money.

Ten Hag clearly wasn't interested in the numbers and knew that Haller was the missing link for his team, pulling off another masterstroke in the mould of Tadic's arrival three years earlier.

Haller bagged 11 goals in his first half-season and has been one of Europe's most prolific marksmen in 2021/22.

11. Defending the KNVB Cup (18/04/21)

Ten Hag masterminded a run to KNVB Cup glory in 2018/19, and after the tournament was cancelled in 2019/20 because of Covid-19, Ajax would get the chance to defend their crown a little later than expected.

They'd go on to defeat Ten Hag's former side, Utrecht, before knocking off AZ, PSV, Heerenveen and finally Vitesse, winning back-to-back (sort of) trophies thanks to a 91st-minute winner from David Neres.

It would prove to be the final cup competition Ten Hag would win at Ajax.


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