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Ex Premier League manager says Ashworth factor could lead Man Utd to appoint controversial choice of boss

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Are the stars aligning for Manchester United to replace Erik ten Hag with a man who would cause some pretty substantial divisions between Ineos and the Red Devils fanbase just months into a new era at Old Trafford?

His contract expires this summer. He has a good relationship with many members of the current Old Trafford roster already. He’s got a track record, too, when it comes to building a culture, dispelling the toxicity of a previous, failing regime, and creating a more positive, team-focused ethic.

So, if Erik ten Hag does lose his job after this month’s FA Cup final rematch with Man City at Wembley, the aforementioned gaffer would tick a fair few boxes, no?

Gareth Southgate, manager of England poses for a picture ahead of the UEFA EURO 2024 Final Tournament Draw at the Atlantic hotel on December 02, 20...

Photo by Stuart Franklin – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Manchester United linked with Gareth Southgate

Well, unfortunately, the argument stops – for many Manchester United supporters – as soon as Gareth Southgate‘s name comes up.

The England boss finds himself in that rather strange position of 1) being England’s most successful coach in the 21st century and 2) being the man blamed by many for the Three Lions unrelenting trophy drought.

It appears that those at Ineos are focusing more on the first point rather than the last one, reports suggesting that Southgate – alongside the likes of Roberto de Zerbi, Graham Potter and Thomas Tuchel – is near the top of Man United’s managerial wishlist.

Alan Pardew, who describes Southgate as ‘a friend of mine’, believes there is another factor which makes the former Middlesbrough captain a ‘definite possibility’ for the Old Trafford job.

The Dan Ashworth factor, he feels, could yet be a decisive one.

  • READ MORE: Who is Dan Ashworth? Meet the man who could be set to transform Manchester United

Ashworth thinks England boss is ‘outstanding’

“I think, after the last World Cup, he had similar questions (about his future). He decided to stay on and, obviously, he’s now found himself with a perhaps even better side than the side that was in the last tournament,” Pardew, the one-time West Ham, Newcaastle and Crytsal Palace boss, tells talkSPORT (9 May, 1.30pm).

“So holding on, when you’ve got Jude Bellingham so young, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, I am sure he would want to stay on. But whether the flavour for Gareth to stay on if we don’t win it…

“The Man United aspect is a definite probability because Dan Ashworth has obviously been headhunted from Newcastle,” Pardew adds. “He’s very much got his finger on the pulse, he would have three or four names for Jim Ratcliffe.

“Being an Englishman with a majority share of that club, and wanting to take it forward, I am guessing Gareth would definitely be in the frame.”

Ashworth, while yet to officially start his new role as Man United’s sporting director, is still likely to have a major say on who, if anyone, ends up replacing the under-fire Ten Hag. And it did not pass Pardew by that Ashworth was working as the FA’s technical director when Southgate was promoted from the Under 21 role to England’s top job back in 2016.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the appointment,” Ashworth said at the time. “We came to the agreement that we felt Gareth was the outstanding candidate for the role.”

For all of Southgate’s critics – and there are certainly a lot of those – it should not be forgotten that England had not reached a semi-final of a major tournament in 28 years before storming into the last four of the 2018 World Cup.

Southgate may not have got the Three Lions over the line yet – defeated by Croatia in 2018 and Italy in the final in 2021 – but it is largely thanks to him that the days of group-stage exits and that supposed quarter-final limit has been overcome in the modern era.

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