“I think he can let them play in a certain way. He’s been doing that at Ajax. Let’s suppose he goes to Manchester United, he needs to have the right players. He needs support from the owners and the technical director to ensure they bring in players of certain abilities, so they can play with a philosophy. Because if you bring in a coach, if you’re bringing the coach for a certain philosophy, you also need to help him out, give him a voice in making decisions for that type of player that he needs. And if you’re not able to do that or if you’re not willing to do that, then it becomes very difficult for a coach to play a certain philosophy, to make it possible for him, and also for the fans to get them on side.”
There were rumors last week that ten Hag might prefer to add a Dutch coach to his staff at Old Trafford who had some familiarity with the club. Stam’s name came up due to his availability and experience as a manager over the last several years, though he struggled to find much success.
Stam also said that he believes some of the current squad already fit what ten Hag might want to do tactically. Paul Pogba in particular is a player Stam thinks can work in the midfield setup, and he offered thoughts on Cristiano Ronaldo as well:
“I think Cristiano has proven this season that he can still score a lot of goals. He’s still very fit, I still think he’s very eager to do well and be important for the club. But with a player like him, if you want to play him or you want to start him every game, that means you need to build your system a little bit around him in how you want to play.
“That means you need to have wingers that can use him, come play on the inside. You need to play with full backs that can go high up the pitch. You need to dominate, you need to play in the opposition’s half every time so he gets into the box, or around the box every time or the majority of times in the games that you play.
“That’s how you have to adapt your system to him if you keep him. But without a doubt, next season, if he stays, he’s going to be important. A very important one for a club, and for a coach, is to go into talks with him and what he wants and how he sees it. Maybe he wants to stay, maybe he is looking at it for the next season, maybe he’s saying ‘okay, I want to start every game,’ or maybe he’s saying ‘okay I want to start two games a week instead of three.”
Stam also spoke about Harry Maguire, the club captain who has been a lightning rod for much of the criticism amongst fans and pundits alike during United’s dreadful 2021/22 campaign. He had some positive words for the defender, and offered some perspective on the difficulties defenders face when the team is in poor form.
“He’s an easy target because it’s easy to say that he is making mistakes or wrong choices. Everybody, even when I played, I made mistakes, I made wrong choices as well.
“I think for him, and that’s what I meant, by what I said before, he also needs to have help from his teammates. He also needs to have the confidence of people around him and they will have for him. But also from outside as well, so he can make these steps. I’ve seen him play before as well when he was at Leicester, and he played good games. Yeah, sometimes now, when you see him play, he doesn’t look confident at times or not making the right decision. But that’s also part of a player and his career path. Sometimes you get ups and downs, you play well, and then you go down a little bit. But it’s about how you pick yourself up to become a steady player.
“And I think for him, they need to help him out as well. They need to tell him as well what he needs to do, and how he needs to play. He’s doing well within the national team as well when he plays. So he’s shown that he can play at a high level in the national team, not only for the country but also I think at Manchester United.”