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Jumbo-Visma talks tactics and ‘benching’ athletes with Manchester United boss

'I wanted to understand from him: how do you come up with tactics? What is the essence of your sport for you?' says Zeeman.

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Jumbo-Visma’s head coach has enlisted the advice of Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag as the Dutch team looks to tackle the balancing act of providing opportunities for several major stars all at once.

According to an interview in Helden Magazine in the Netherlands, Merijn Zeeman recently traveled to Manchester to sit down with the latest Manchester United manager to discuss an array of topics. The pair had previously met owing to Erik ten Hag’s previous role as head coach of the Ajax football team in Holland.

In recent years Jumbo-Visma’s all-out attacking style, in which domestiques have alternated roles with GC riders, has been compared to the “total football” approach associated with the iconic Dutch soccer teams of the 1970s. Zeeman used his time in the north of England to help try and understand ten Hag’s approach.

“He’s 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 reportedly told Helden Magazine.

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According to the publication, one of the main topics that came up in discussion was over squad selection.

Jumbo-Visma heavily recruited over the summer, adding Wilco Kelderman and Dylan van Baarle to its already impressive ranks. With Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert, Primož Roglič, and new world time trial champion Tobias Foss already on the books, balancing individual aims will be important for the coming season.

Erik ten Hag has a history of dealing with such critical and delicate issues. At Manchester United, he has already taken the bold but understandable position of benching Cristiano Ronaldo — although the veteran has recently been brought back into the fold — while the Dutch boss also deals with an underperforming team.

“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 said. “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. There was also less for the human approach, I think that is not just in this time.”