Was this the game that landed Erik ten Hag the Manchester United job? When Ajax humiliated Real Madrid in their own backyard

Ajax vs Real Madrid, 2019
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's felt like a long time coming, and it's finally confirmed: Erik ten Hag is the new Manchester United manager.

The Dutchman doesn't have the glitziest career in management, with Go Ahead Eagles, Bayern Munich's reserves and Utrecht filling up his CV before he took on the Ajax role in 2017.

That means he has no experience in managing in one of Europe's biggest leagues – generally considered to be England, Spain, Italy, Germany and, to a lesser extent, France.

That means the board at Old Trafford have taken a bit of a gamble on Ten Hag's appointment, no matter how impressed they were by his interview.

Why did Manchester United hire Erik ten Hag?

While Ten Hag doesn't have experience in one of Europe's elite leagues, he does have experience facing some of the continent's best teams in the Champions League – and coming out on top.

His best season in Europe to date was 2018/19, when his plucky Ajax team made it to the Champions League semi-finals – and were just seconds from the final before a moment of Lucas Moura magic denied them.

On the way there, they managed two games unbeaten against Bayern Munich in the group stage, and handily dispatched Juventus 3-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.

But it was the Round-of-16 tie against Real Madrid that really caught the eye.

Los Blancos won the first leg 2-1 in Amsterdam, and looked likely to continue Ajax's woeful record of 22 years without progressing in a Champions League knockout stage.

Ajax, though, showed they were not going to roll over and allow the 13-time European champions to saunter through to the next round.

Hakim Ziyech netted the first goal seven minutes in, kicking off an incredible attacking display that saw them leave the Spanish capital deserved 4-1 winners.

David Neres, Dusan Tadic and Lasse Schone also got on the scoresheet as Ten Hag's men humiliated Madrid.

The team they beat were no second-string: Thibault Courtois, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema were all in the Real Madrid starting line-up.

The performance certainly turned heads. Over the next year, Juventus pinched Matthijs De Ligt, Barcelona took Frenkie De Jong, Manchester United came calling for Donny van de Beek and Chelsea opted for Hakim Ziyech.

Now, finally, the manager has been nabbed by an elite club too, with Ten Hag joining Man United. And Red Devils fans will be hoping that he can get them to turn out more performances like the one seen at the Bernabeu in 2019.

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Conor Pope
Online Editor

Conor Pope is the Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content, and joined the team in February 2019. He plays football regularly, both on grass and artificial surfaces, and has a large, discerning and ever-growing collection of football shirts from around the world.

He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.