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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Support grows for Erik ten Hag with Manchester United hierarchy still undecided on manager’s future

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Erik ten Hag still has prominent figures in the new Manchester United football hierarchy backing him, in what is the first major test of the club’s new structure. Although the Dutch coach is in real danger of being sacked in a final review this week, the FA Cup victory has helped his case, and bolstered existing arguments from influential decision-makers that he should stay.

Representatives of United have already spoken to the camps of Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel, Kieran McKenna and Thomas Frank to prepare for the event that Ten Hag is sacked. Although there is admiration for McKenna, a debate pervades that it might be too soon for him to make the leap. He is currently seen as likelier to go to Brighton if he does leave Ipswich Town. Frank is meanwhile considered well below Pochettino and Tuchel.

There is an awareness among the INEOS hierarchy that sacking Ten Hag would be an unpopular decision among the fanbase, especially after Saturday’s victory over Manchester City. The club’s football figures do want to make a cold and holistic decision in the sophisticated new manner they want to run the club, though, and much of the topics that will inform this week’s final review go beyond purely football results. While it would not be true to say the structure is “split” on either Ten Hag’s fate or his potential replacement, it is more about the leadership fully thrashing out every aspect to take the most informed decision possible.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is yet to decide on the future of the Man Utd boss.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is yet to decide on the future of the Man Utd boss. (Nick Potts/PA Wire)

Saturday is seen as having potentially changed things, though.

One argument that has already been put forward is that this season essentially represents the equivalent of Mikel Arteta’s first full campaign at Arsenal, where they also finished eighth amid a raft of changes. There has been sympathy for Ten Hag over injuries and a series of other distractions. One highly prominent voice has been adamant that they should change, and believes that Ten Hag could be construed as responsible for some of the main problems. As one example, questions have been raised about training as regards injuries.

There have also been questions about the performance of players signed, with recruitment almost the primary issue that INEOS want to overhaul.

Sir Dave Brailsford – who was seen walking out with Sir Jim Ratcliffe when the minority owner evaded questions on Ten Hag in the Wembley mixed zone – is understood to be a vocal backer of Gareth Southgate. That may actually help save the Dutch coach for the moment, though, since it is seen as politically very difficult to get the England this manager this summer. If the national team even got to the quarter-finals at Euro 2024, it would mean the manager joining up with pre-season very late.

Some of this also reflects the fact that the INEOS football structure itself is not yet finalised, as they still wait for Dan Ashworth to arrive from Newcastle United in what has already proven a hugely controversial move.

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