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‘Like Xabi Alonso’: Man United like him but ‘excellent coach’ urged to snub offers

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While Champions League qualification has long since become a pipe dream for Erik ten Hag, one of the manager’s tipped to take his place in the Manchester United dugout secured his own place at Europe’s top table on Sunday.

On the same day that the Red Devils lost a 14th Premier League game of a dismal season – Leandro Trossard pouncing on yet more calamitous Casemiro defending at Old Trafford – a manager admired by Ineos inspired a 2-0 win away from home at 2023’s champions.

The last time Bologna were plying their trade in Europe’s premiere club competition, Goldfinger was selling out at the cinemas, The Animals were headlining the charts with House of the Rising Sun, and Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law and George Best were firing Matt Busby’s Manchester United side to the First Division title.

It’s taken 60 years but Bologna are back. A win at Napoli, despite an injury to star striker Joshua Zirkzee, is the fruit of Thiago Motta’s labours.

And after masterminding such a remarkable transformation who were treading treacle when he was appointed back in 2022, the question facing Motta is whether he stays to write another chapter into this remarkable success story.

Thiago Motta, Head Coach of Bologna FC looks on during the Serie A TIM match between Bologna FC and Hellas Verona FC at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on F...

Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images

Manchester United like Thiago Motta

According to The Telegraph, the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain playmaker is admired by Ineos, displaying the same nous and intelligence in the dugout as he did on the pitch.

But for Massimo Orlando, Motta should take a leaf out of Xabi Alonso’s book and remind himself that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

“I think he is an excellent coach,” former Milan, Fiorentina and Juventus midfielder Orlando tells Tuttomercatoweb, Motta reportedly high on the list of one of his old employers.

“I think it would be a huge coup for Juve. For Motta, I don’t know. For me, he’s also thinking about staying in Bologna. It’s true that Juve is a new project, but if ownership with (Bologna chief Giovanni) Sartori satisfies him, he can do like Xabi Alonso.

“I see him very happy. I don’t think he’s afraid to face the Juve path, but maybe he understands that it’s not the time yet. And staying at Bologna would be a great move. (Staying would be more) intelligent.”

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Erik ten Hag facing uncertain future under Ineos

Motta, like Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi, is part of a new generation of Italian coaches. In place of Catenaccio, Italian football is giving rise to a more free-flowing, Guardiola-inspired approach these days.

Motta’s high-pressing, possession-heavy style will certainly appeal to Ineos, who are keen to instil a proactive, dominant streak in a Man United side who have spent much of Erik ten Hag’s dreadful second season chasing shadows.

“He is doing fantastic,” Wesley Sneijder, who was also part of Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter side in 2010, tells RTL7 of Motta.

“I played with him. He was a player who was underrated. As a player, he could already read the game and set the lines. He now does that again as a coach.”

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