Is Ten Hag Playing for His Sack at Manchester United as European Club Opportunity Emerges?

Erik ten Hag’s future at Manchester United is uncertain amid a worrying season at Old Trafford, with the club potentially falling below the 7th-place mark for the first time in the Premier League era.

The Dutchman enjoyed a stunning first season at the club, guiding his side back to the Champions League by way of a third-place finish and ending United’s six-year wait for silverware.

His second campaign has been far from a success, with the season plagued by injuries, off-pitch drama, and a dysfunctional side on the pitch.

United have fallen far adrift of the Champions League hopefuls and their only hope of any success this season is the FA Cup, with a semi-final awaiting them this weekend.

The expected change: The Best in Class

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has recently acquired a 25% stake in the club, granting him full control over Manchester United’s football operations. INEOS has articulated its clear intention to restore Manchester United to its winning ways, aiming to appoint top-tier professionals to lead each key role within the club’s new organisational structure.

With the introduction of a new footballing hierarchy slated to commence in July 2024, featuring Omar Berrada as CEO, Dan Ashworth as Director of Football, and Jason Wilcox as Technical Director, the future of current manager Erik ten Hag under Ratcliffe’s leadership remains uncertain beyond the upcoming summer season. The British billionaire has wasted no time in initiating significant changes at the executive level.

In an exclusive conversation with MUFC Realist TV, a source within Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s inner circle disclosed that further restructuring is imminent. This comprehensive overhaul is spearheaded by Sir Dave Brailsford, who has concluded his strategic assessment of the existing football operations and personnel at both the Carrington training facility and the Mayfair headquarters.

The initial changes have already been witnessed, with John Murtagh, the Sporting Director, being shown the exit, and uncertainty looming over the future of Darren Fletcher, the current Technical Director. The insider indicated that additional executive positions, including the roles of COO and CFO, are also expected to undergo replacements.

Enduring the Storm: Ten Hag’s Future

Amidst swirling speculation regarding Erik ten Hag’s future at Manchester United, a source informed MUFC Realist TV that “Ten Hag has not entirely garnered the confidence of all stakeholders.” Despite this, the Dutchman continues to steer the club through challenging times. Ten Hag’s destiny appears to be closely tied to Manchester United’s Champions League ambitions, which are currently dwindling. The patience exhibited by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford suggests a calculated approach, acknowledging that a rushed leadership change may not provide the desired solution.

While media outlets have been rife with speculation and conjecture about potential successors for Ten Hag, including names like Gareth Southgate, Roberto De Zerbi, Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel, and Graham Potter, none have been deemed to be the best in class. Furthermore, dismissing Ten Hag would reportedly incur a £10 million cost for the club, as per insights from MUFC Realist TV. Our source, along with several other media sources, has indicated that INEOS is currently planning with Erik ten Hag in mind. With one year remaining on his contract, it has been revealed that his performance under the new structure will be evaluated through 2025.

Potential Successors: A Cautious Approach

From a football operations perspective, it may seem prudent for INEOS to consider replacing Erik ten Hag, who has only one year remaining on his contract, with managers who are not necessarily better or best-in-class. This approach could allow INEOS to mitigate financial implications associated with severance fees for Ten Hag and his coaching staff, thereby adhering to financial fair play regulations.

A source informed MUFC Realist TV that INEOS has already pinpointed elite managers who will be available in 2025 should Ten Hag falter. These managers are regarded as top-tier talents capable of elevating Manchester United to the pinnacle of the sport, aligning with INEOS’ ambitious vision.

It is believed that the top candidates on this list include Xabi Alonso from Bayer Leverkusen, Pep Guardiola from Manchester City, and Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti. Both Guardiola and Ancelotti are set to be out of contract in the summer of 2025, making them potentially viable options for Manchester United’s managerial role.

Another highly regarded option, as mentioned by the credible source, is Zinedine Zidane. The French football icon is known to have close ties and ongoing dialogues with Jean-Claude Blanc, the CEO of INEOS Sport. Zidane’s proven track record of success, particularly with Real Madrid where he secured three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles, adds weight to his candidacy for the managerial position at Manchester United. His strategic acumen and ability to manage star-studded squads could align well with INEOS’ vision of propelling the club to the forefront of European football.

Is Ten Hag Playing for the Sack to join Ajax?

Erik ten Hag’s 18-month tenure at Manchester United has been marked by a third-place finish in the Premier League and securing a cup trophy in his debut season. However, his second Premier League campaign saw a shift in the team’s playing system, emphasising high-intensity pressing in the opponent’s half. This tactical alteration has not resonated well with both players and fans, resulting in a significant downturn in performance.

The repercussions have been severe, leading to the most extensive injury crisis in Manchester United’s history. Despite the evident struggles, Ten Hag has shown a reluctance to adapt his approach, persistently adhering to a system that appears ineffective. The lack of discernible progress is further exacerbated by his consistent selection of underperforming players, such as Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay, who have struggled both defensively and offensively, although McTominay has scored more goals than Rashford this season.

With the team conceding an alarming number of goals and shots, questions arise regarding Ten Hag’s suitability for the role. Is he inadvertently paving the way for his dismissal?

Amid speculation surrounding Ten Hag’s future, it is now being reported that he could be in the frame for another job in Europe if his time at Old Trafford comes to an end.

Speaking to Soccer News, via Sport Witness, Dutch football expert Mike Verweij has revealed that Ten Hag has emerged as a potential candidate for the Ajax job this summer.

 As per the reporter, Ajax are on the lookout for a new manager going into next season and they will prioritise a move for Ten Hag if he is available.

“Ten Hag is still the dream candidate, but they are also working on a plan B, C and D. If Ten Hag says ‘no’, they do want something else. There are also talks with a foreign candidate now,” Verweij is quoted as saying.

The mood around United has drastically changed in the last month, with Ten Hag no longer having the near-unanimous support he had earlier.

United are frustrating on the pitch and it is not looking like the tide is turning anytime soon. Hopefully, Ten Hag can get his side over the finish line this season and end the season on a high.

There is no guarantee that a trophy will be enough to save his job as Ratcliffe’s intentions remain unclear. It will not be long before the situation is cleared up, however.