Mitchell van der Gaag, a Manchester United assistant, has told the club that he has no desire to become Ajax’s new coach.
Louis van Gaal chose Van der Gaag as the right choice to succeed Maurice Steijn after the former Manchester United manager was requested to take on an advising position with the Amsterdam club following a disastrous start to the season. Steijn was fired on Monday, following a 4-3 loss to fellow strugglers Volendam, which dropped Ajax to the bottom of the Eredivisie by one spot.
They will not pursue Van der Gaag, however, as the 51-year-old stated his determination to remain loyal to United manager Erik ten Hag.The news will provide a significant boost to the Reds on the day of their crucial Champions League meeting with Copenhagen at Old Trafford.
Van der Gaag, who worked as Ten Hag’s assistant for two years at Ajax before joining him to Manchester in the summer of 2022, has become an essential sounding board for him. When it became clear that Steijn was living on borrowed time, Ajax made him their top priority, checking to determine if he had an escape clause in his United contract and how large the compensation package would be.
Van Gaal, 72, answered an SOS to come out of retirement to advise Ajax on their options to rebuild their season and is a huge admirer of Van der Gaag. But the Dutchman is settled working alongside Ten Hag and feels they have unfinished business at Old Trafford despite an inconsistent start to the season.
Ajax have asked Stein’s assistant Hedwiges Maduro to take temporary change of the first team and are in talks with John van t’ Schip to become coach for the rest of the season. Ajax have won just one of their opening seven games and were beaten at Volendam despite fighting back from 2-0 down to lead.
Van der Gaag became Ten Hag’s assistant after spending two impressive seasons working with Ajax’s under-21 team. He is fluent in five languages, including Portuguese and Spanish, which helps with communication in the dressing room.
His departure would have left a huge hole in United’s backroom team. Ajax were disappointed when Ten Hag left to become United boss and then took Van der Gaag with him.