Ajax sacked Maurice Steijn on Monday after a historically poor start to the season. The Dutch giants sit in 17th in the Eredivisie table after seven games. With one win and two draws, Ajax is in the relegation zone. That was enough for the side to sack Steijn, who only took over at Ajax in the summer. Now, the side is in the market for a new manager.

One of the top prospects calls back to Ajax’s successful staff from two seasons ago. At the time, Erik ten Hag was the manager. Now at Manchester United, ten Hag took much of his coaching staff with him to Old Trafford. Ajax wants to bring an assistant back to the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Ajax is targeting Mitchell van der Gaag. Van der Gaag has worked as an assistant to ten Hag since 2021. Before then, he coached at several clubs across the Netherlands. That includes the Ajax reserves team. Therefore, he has a preexisting relationship with several of the Ajax players. The Ajax brass is hoping van der Gaag can tap into the talent that Ajax showed in seasons prior.

Steijn has experience as a manager in the Eredivisie. He oversaw Excelsior and NAC during previous stints. Both of those clubs are midtable sides that regularly inhabit the bottom half of the table. In his lone season with NAC, the club suffered relegation. NAC finished that campaign with the fewest points in the Eredivisie.

Ajax wants the understudy to Erik ten Hag, Mitchell van der Gaag

However, spending time with Ajax and Erik ten Hag may have helped van der Gaag become more acclimated to managing top-level talent. As part of the Ajax coaching staff, van der Gaag helped the side win the Eredivisie. It also finished runner-up in the KNVB Cup, the Dutch equivalent to the FA Cup.

United boss Erik ten Hag sees Mitchell van der Gaag as a necessity at Manchester United.

United boss Erik ten Hag sees Mitchell van der Gaag as a necessity at Manchester United.

United boss Erik ten Hag sees Mitchell van der Gaag as a necessity at Manchester United.

Manchester United benefitted from having van der Gaag on its coaching staff. In his first season as an assistant in England, Manchester United finished third in the Premier League table. Also, United won the League Cup and reached the FA Cup Final. However, things have started slow for United in year two.

Despite that, Ajax hopes to bring the Dutchman back to the Eredivisie to turn the club’s fortunes around.

United not ready to let assistant go

Erik ten Hag is desperate to keep van der Gaag on the United coaching staff. According to reports, the assistant has a close relationship with ten Hag. A move back to the Netherlands would require van der Gaag to ditch the manager who elevated him to the Ajax coaching staff two years ago. Also, ten Hag is still trying to smooth out the wrinkles at Manchester United this campaign.

However, Ajax is a major draw. Having brought back Louis van Gaal as a consultant, the club is taking steps to fix a dismal campaign. As of now, Hedwiges Maduro is serving as the interim head coach at Ajax. The club returns to Europa League action against Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday before its Eredivisie season picks back up at the weekend.