3) Maguire 5) Sancho 22) Varane – Ranking Man Utd players by volume of Man Utd DNA

Will Ford
Harry Maguire, Antony and Bruno Fernandes.
Harry Maguire, Antony and Bruno Fernandes.

We weren’t given a massive amount of information by Erik ten Hag as to what exactly he sees as the Manchester United ‘DNA’. He claims the club’s genetics are hampering him playing the Ajax way, which will likely frustrate those who hired him, who presumably did so because of that brand of football.

His comments have arrived on the back of questions about what exactly the Ten Hag style at Manchester United is. After 18 months, it’s not clear.

“The player material you have determines how you will play. That’s why we play here in a different way than I did at Ajax. That will have to be the case, because I can’t play the same way here. That is not in the DNA of Manchester United at all. The football at Ajax is very typical, here we will play much more directly. We also have the players for that, especially at the forefront.”

So United play with an atypical and direct style that suits their players, according to their manager, who apparently doesn’t have the means to change it, even if he wanted to. It’s their ‘DNA’, after all.

But which United player has the most United DNA? We’ve ranked them – fatuously in the main – from least to most. Players must have started at least two Premier League games to be included.

There’s five former Ajax players, by the way, which isn’t great for a team that’s apparently desperately trying not to be like Ajax…


24) Donny van de Beek
He is the Ajax style not working at United in a nutshell. The poor b*stard may as well still be an Ajax player. He’s started 11 Premier League games in three-and-a-half seasons since his £35m move to Old Trafford. And five of those were in his six months at Everton.


23) Christian Eriksen
Not a strand of United DNA in the guy who graduated from the Ajax academy. He keeps the ball far too well and waits for opportune moments to play a killer pass rather than forcing it when it’s not on. Absolutely not what United are about.


22) Raphael Varane
We’ve got to assume he has very little DNA seeing as he was dropped in favour of Mr. Manchester United Harry Maguire for the Manchester derby, after which Ten Hag came up with all this Ajax vs United stuff.


21) Andre Onana
An odd move to sign the goalkeeper key to the Ajax style – supposedly excellent with the ball at his feet in tight areas at the back – when what you actually apparently want to do is get it launched to big and quick f**kers up front. The signing of Onana is perhaps an indication that it only very recently dawned on Ten Hag that it’s not possible to play the Ajax way at United.


20) Sofyan Amrabat
Doesn’t appear to be able to pass the ball forwards all that much, or with any great accuracy, which will likely prove to be a problem in getting it from front to back quickly.


19) Mason Mount
He’s very in your face, which could be construed as directness, but what’s the point of a guy playing between the lines when the ball is going straight to the forwards?

READ MORE: Mason Mount foiled by Ten Hag’s ‘unforeseen dilemma’ at Man Utd


18) Tyrell Malacia
We can’t really remember a single thing Malacia has done, good or bad, since he joined United. He’s been injured a lot though, which to be fair is currently very on brand.


17) Anthony Martial
If any player was to typify Manchester United DNA over the last decade, with all his unfulfilled potential and wasted talent, it’s Martial. But we’re not convinced that’s what Ten Hag is after.


16) Lisandro Martinez
Manchester United fans would like to think he’s very Manchester United because he’s a fighter. But he also likes to make neat little triangles at the back and of course came from “typical” football team Ajax. He’s maybe a good bridge between the two sets of DNA, or a mutation aid, from an Ajax swan to the United ostrich.


15) Luke Shaw
Just four goals in 262 games for the club doesn’t scream attacking full-back, and the stats don’t suggest he’s been hugely creative either, with only 28 assists in that time. Then again, he probably would be more of a threat if given more of a license, which he presumably will be when Ten Hag fully engages with the new ‘attack, attack, attack’ style.


14) Sergio Reguilon
More dribbles per 90 minutes (3.0) than any other United defender and midfielder. He’s crap at them – completing one in every three – but at least he’s trying.


13) Victor Lindelof
He’s been there for six years now, so he must have some United DNA. Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia were still knocking about when Lindelof arrived, so even brushing past them a few times you would have thought a bit might have rubbed off.


12) Alejandro Garnacho
Runs at, and more typically into, defenders, which is pretty direct, and takes shots at inopportune moments and from difficult angles, which is also direct. Clearly a bit of a w*nker too, which is a rife attribute among United wingers, and thus part of the new DNA, if not the one Ten Hag wants.


11) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Not direct in an attacking sense, but about as direct as a player can be in defence. Why hustle and harry when you can extend a leg two metres further than anyone else to win the ball?


10) Diogo Dalot
Not at all good with the ball in tight spaces so Ajax would never go near him. Ipso facto: he’s United through and through.


9) Casemiro
The fact that Ten Hag tried so desperately to lure Frenkie de Jong – the conductor of his Ajax side – to Old Trafford, suggests that he did initially think he could impart the Ajax style onto United. After that long and painful transfer failure, Ten Hag instead went for Casemiro: a completely different midfielder in pretty much every way.

Given Ten Hag’s adamance that United’s style couldn’t be further from that of Ajax, him signing the antithesis of De Jong to play in the same role at Old Trafford suggests that Casemiro oozes Red Devil DNA. He scored plenty of headers in his debut season, which is sort of a ‘direct’ attribute, and he does look to get the ball forward quickly.

A real shame that someone so ideally suited already needs to be replaced.

Man Utd midfielder Casemiro
Casemiro walks off the pitch after being sent off.


8) Bruno Fernandes
He’s technically proficient, which is clearly more Ajax than Manchester United, but throws hissy fits like a former star player and compatriot. He also plays plenty of raking long passes and looks forward more than anyone else. If the captaincy is based on DNA rather than ability to lead, he may actually be the right choice.


7) Jonny Evans
Here he is. Who better to harness and nurture that precious DNA than a United academy lad who was actually around when United still played with bona fide United DNA?


6) Antony
Direct in almost every way, in terms of both his character and the football he plays, which could be seen as a positive for United and the straightforward style of football Ten Hag wants. But Antony isn’t so much a positive as a £90m pr*ck that they’re stuck with.


5) Jadon Sancho
If Jadon Sancho was still at Dortmund, Erik ten Hag would be desperately be trying to sign that version of Jadon Sancho to play for his direct Manchester United side.


4) Rasmus Hojlund
When Ten Hag talks about direct players “especially at the forefront”, he must be thinking of Hojlund, who’s big, strong, quick and busts a gut to get into scoring positions. Would be nice if he scored from those scoring positions, but why focus on that? He’s got lots of DNA.


3) Harry Maguire
Big head, big headers, big switches of play, barrelling runs up the pitch. He’s got Manchester United DNA coursing through his veins.


2) Scott McTominay
Gets about the pitch, gets in the box, scores goals, makes tackles and genuinely loves the club having come through the academy when they were winning titles for fun. He could palm off some of his DNA he’s got so much of it. Would be the ideal Manchester United captain if he was a little bit better at football.


1) Marcus Rashford
He’s about as direct as they come, isn’t he? No tippy-tappy sh*te from Rashford. He’s bloody quick, and can kick the ball really rather hard. Get ball, run at defender, or, get ball, have shot, normally off target.