New Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag's life shaped by tragedy

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The tragic events that have shaped Erik ten Hag’s life… the expected new manager of Manchester United suffered the loss of a friend in a plane crash, a team-mate’s suicide and his mentor’s fatal heart attack

  • Erik Ten Hag’s life has been profoundly affected by personal loss
  • There’s belief the 52-year-old has been driven to succeed by the tragic events 
  • His philosophy has been heavily influenced by his mentor Epi Drost 

It promises to be a whirlwind few weeks in the life of Erik ten Hag, but Manchester United’s prospective new manager will take time out from his new job to remember a lost friend and a tragedy that helped to shape his career.

June 7 is a date Ten Hag has marked in his diary as a day of mourning. It was that day in 1989 that his close friend Andy Scharmin died in a plane crash en route to a charity tournament in Surinam. Scharmin, 21, had travelled from Amsterdam with his mother and 14 other players after rejecting the chance to play for Holland Under 21s in the Toulon Tournament.

They were among 178 of the 187 people on board who died as Surinam Airways Flight 764 crashed on its final approach to Paramaribo-Zanderij Airport.

Erik ten Hag will take time out from his new job at Man United to remember a lost friend

Erik ten Hag will take time out from his new job at Man United to remember a lost friend

Ten Hag, then 19, learned the devastating news when his team-mate at FC Twente, Edwin Hilgerink, knocked on his front door in the small town of Haaksbergen where they were brought up in the east of Holland.

‘I will never forget Edwin standing on my doorstep to tell me that a plane had crashed with Andy and his mother on board,’ Ten Hag recalled.

‘That was a huge blow. At his funeral I carried Andy’s coffin with other team-mates. It happened on June 7, 1989, and every year on that date I have a day of mourning.’

Scharmin’s death isn’t the only tragedy that still haunts Ten Hag. Gino Weber, his friend and former youth team-mate at Twente, committed suicide at the age of 33 after his career had been derailed by injuries.

Weber had suffered from depression and addiction and, after being sentenced to prison for robbery, he was found dead at home in July 2003.

Close friend Andy Scharmin died in a plane crash en route to a charity tournament in Suriname

Gino Weber, his friend and former youth team-mate at Twente, committed suicide at the age of 33

Ten Hag’s life has been profoundly affected by deaths of Andy Scharmin (L) and Gino Weber (R)

Another member of Twente’s youth-team squad, Wilfried Elzinga, saw his career cruelly cut short by injury.

Those close to Ten Hag believe the 52-year-old has been driven to succeed by his friends’ misfortune, as if determined to seize the opportunities they never had.

He rejected the chance to join his brothers in the family’s business, and instead had a modest playing career in his home country as a centre back before excelling as a coach.

Ten Hag enjoyed a modest playing career in his home country before excelling as a coach

 Ten Hag enjoyed a modest playing career in his home country before excelling as a coach

His philosophy has been heavily influenced by his mentor and former youth-team coach Epi Drost, who died of a heart attack aged 49 in 1995.

‘I often think back to my youth at Twente,’ said Ten Hag. ‘Three boys were so good they could have made it to the national team. But one of them was seriously injured and two other boys died young. It puts everything into perspective.

‘Epi Drost was my idol. He was a fan of adventurous football. He stimulated creativity, because that was the most important thing to him. Epi died due to a cardiac arrest during a match. That was a massive blow for me.’

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