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McClaren formula has Twente racing

Steve McClaren has presided over a seamless succession from his predecessor Fred Rutten at FC Twente, his side starting well in the UEFA Cup and reaching the Eredivisie top three ahead of the visit of AFC Ajax.

Steve McClaren is rebuilding his reputation in the Netherlands
Steve McClaren is rebuilding his reputation in the Netherlands ©Getty Images

Unusual situation
For the first time since 1962, the top three in the Eredivisie table features none of the three traditional powerhouses of Dutch football – Ajax, PSV Eindoven and Feyenoord – after eight matches. Instead, AZ Alkmaar are top, a point ahead of FC Groningen and Twente, who are showing no signs of turbulence following former England manager McClaren's arrival to replaced FC Schalke 04-bound Rutten.

Tidy handover
With their new-look home stadium now boasting a 24,000 capacity, Twente started the season with an increased budget which has helped them to overcome the departures of Orlando Engelaar, Karim El Ahmadi and Luke Wilkshire, as well as Rutten. New arrivals Theo Janssen, Cheik Tioté, Ronnie Stam and Kenneth Perez have fitted in well, and the 'Tukkers' are finding little changed from last season.

Similar attitude
"McClaren thinks the same as Rutten on most things," said left-back Edson Braafheid. "Rutten always said details are always crucial in big matches, and that is what McClaren says on a regular basis. McClaren adds a little coaching experience. He understands training intensity. As we now play two matches a week regularly, it's important to have some rest in between."

Shock defeat
A 3-0 defeat by FC Utrecht on 5 October represented a shock to the system for Twente, but they have recovered since by recording four straight victories, including a derby triumph against Heracles Almelo and 1-0 victory against Real Racing Club in their UEFA Cup Group A opener. The Heracles win was especially useful for McClaren, who said: "Derbies bring more pressure and the players handled that professionally."

'Tough series'
On Wednesday, they won 1-0 at NAC Breda to move up to third and McClaren is full of hope as they gear up to entertain Ajax. "NAC are one of the best teams [in the division], especially in Breda where it's hard for the visitors," he said. "We knew we had to win the personal duels to survive, and we did. We have a tough series of matches ahead. That win gives us hope."