It was a dream debut. Frank De Boer’s first match as head coach easily fits this description. With a broad smile, he looked back on a successful debut after the Champions League victory against AC Milan.
The 1.800 Ajax fans who had made the trip slowly left the stadium after the game. For a long time afterwards, they were still cheering De Boer and his players, who passed with flying colours by earning a spot in European football after the winter break with a great win in San Siro. After an evening like this, the feeling was about Frank De Boer – who doesn’t know him?
As the last sounds still resonated from the visitors’ stands, de winning coach entered the press room. To the congratulatory comments offered by the press, he answered sincerely: “thanks, you too”. And then there was the wink and smile. “We played a gutsy game. We were arrogant, but in a good way. But it all came from discipline, with a tight organisation, and being a real team. They did a great job”, was De Boer’s ringing assessment.
“We played following the Ajax philosophy. With wingers and a real number ten. And everyone did well at the job they were assigned beforehand. The wingers kept the field broad, and came in at the right times. And that’s only possible if the backs come up on time. For example, I saw Van der Wiel come up at least twenty times tonight. I hadn’t seen him do that in a long time. But he did it tonight. That’s the Greg we want to see. I think he was symbolic of the whole team tonight.”
Referring the Christian Eriksen’s strong performance, De Boer said: “Christian freed himself up well and was good with the ball. That’s exactly what he excels at.” The former A1 coach knows the Danish pupil inside out. “I know what Eriksen is capable of. He can do a lot. But we haven’t seen much of that since he transitioned to the first team. It hasn’t come out yet. He did well tonight. We need to trust him and be patient with him, and it will come. And don’t forget: he’s still just a second year A-junior.”
“We showed guts tonight”, he concluding with satisfaction. “We were hammered that in from the start. Dare to play. It’s OK to make mistakes, but show some guts, on all positions. The guys definitely did a great job of that tonight.”