As Cristiano Ronaldo puts the boot in, Jumbo-Visma talk to Manchester United about tactics and managing egos

The Dutch team’s senior sports director has spoken to Manchester United’s Erik ten Hag manager for sporting advice

Manchester United manager, Erik ten Hag
(Image credit: Ash Donelon/Getty)

Senior management at top team Jumbo-Visma have been seeking advice from their counterparts at Manchester United Football Club, just as the 13-time Premier League  champions are reeling from criticism from superstar player Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to a report on Dutch website Wielerflits, the squad’s chief sports director, Merijn Zeeman recently travelled to Manchester for a meeting with United’s manager Erik ten Hag. The two Dutchmen discussed tactics and competition within the their respective squads.

And it’s not the first time the two men have talked about what they can learn from each other, Zeeman admitting after the Tour de France that he had received help from his compatriot.

“He is someone from a completely different sport, but I wanted to understand from him: how do you come up with tactics? What is the essence of your sport for you? Before you make a game plan, what's behind it? I had the opportunity to talk to him about that a few times,” Zeeman said.

The two teams have had differing fortunes over recent years. The cycling team have gained more success than Manchester United, who have not won the Premier League since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired back in 2013, since then they have only four trophies to their name. 

By contrast the last four years have been huge for Jumbo-Visma. Along with Jonas Vingegaard’s Tour de France victory earlier this year, the squad have tasted Grand tour success with Primož Roglič winning three consecutive editions of Vuelta España.

But it’s not only Grand Tours, they have one week stage race general classifications, cobbled classics and wins in a huge variety of other events on their collective palmarès. They can win everything from mountain days, sprint stages and even team time trials.

In 2022 alone they bagged 45 wins with 11 of their 30 men getting on the score sheet.

Names like Vingegaard and Roglič would be enough for many teams to manage and support, but they also have the likes of Christophe Laporte, Tiesj Benoot and Olav Kooij on their books. Not to forget Wout van Aert, arguably the sport’s best rider.

Add to them the likes of Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle, who joins from INEOS Grenadiers next year and there are plenty of egos and ambitions to manage.

“Because Erik ten Hag also had to deal with that at Ajax and now he also has that at United I talked to him about this,” Zeeman continued. 

“As a coach, how do you deal with players who have won everything and suddenly find themselves on the bench? In the past, athletes had to accept that. At the time, there was less attention for the human approach, I think that is not appropriate in this day and age.”

That is certainly a problem Ten Hag is dealing with at the moment, with United’s Portuguese superstar Ronaldo professing his lack of support for the Dutchman in an interview with Piers Morgan. 

But we all know cycling is a great stress relief, so perhaps that’s why the Dutch manager has been out on his bike around Cheshire. And it's also not the only football and cycling knowledge-share currently taking place - Team Ineos Grenadiers team principal Dave Brailsford is assisting OGC Nice from the comfort of a caravan.

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.