Manchester United are close to finalising the appointment of their new manager with Erik ten Hag expected to be their chosen candidate.
Sources from Ajax and the Dutchman’s camp told Sky Sports News last week talks over compensation and how to handle a formal announcement had taken place, after he impressed in his interview.
United denied having official discussions and called such an advanced reading of the situation “premature”.
The club have stuck to that line, insisting no deal has been done with anyone. United’s position is also that the process is still underway with multiple candidates, and they will not be providing running commentary on it.
Ten Hag has a year left on his Ajax contract but excellent relations between the clubs have made talks more straightforward and the Eredivisie club will not stand in his way.
He has long been admired internally, is the popular candidate, and was the easiest to secure on their shortlist of four.
Mauricio Pochettino has been his only true rival for the job, but negotiating with Paris Saint-Germain would be an altogether different prospect than dealing with Ajax. The Dutch club have been helpful rather than obstructive and it is understood Ten Hag’s compensation price is a lowly £1.7m compared to £15m for the Argentine.
Julen Lopetegui stated his desire to remain at Sevilla, while Luis Enrique’s commitment to leading Spain out at the World Cup was too complicated a situation to navigate.
That left a straight battle between Pochettino and Ten Hag, with a split amongst the decision-makers on how to proceed now seemingly resolved.
Football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher led the search for a new manager, feeding into chief executive Richard Arnold and joint-chairman Joel Glazer.
The latter pair have understood to have plumped for Ten Hag over Pochettino, who twice before had been the club’s favoured choice to take charge.
United insist no appointment is imminent.
Analysis: Man Utd exposure like nothing Ten Hag will have experienced
Sky Sports News’ senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
Manchester United’s interest in Erik ten Hag will come as no surprise given his status as one of the most progressive coaches in Europe, and his long links to their managerial vacancy.
The 52-year-old has had admirers at Old Trafford stretching back to 2018/19, when his Ajax side knocked out Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, before then stunning Juventus and only being denied a place in the final after Lucas Moura’s last-minute goal for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Ten Hag is a popular choice to take charge at Old Trafford and represents what is seen as a “fresh, exciting future”, although there is an acceptance risk is involved as it would be a sizeable leap for him.
The last highly-successful Ajax coach to move to England’s top flight – via Inter – was Frank de Boer, who lasted just 77 days at Crystal Palace.
The expectations, global glare placed on United, and level of competition at the top end of the Premier League is like nothing he would have previously experienced.
Neville: Man Utd fans prefer Ten Hag
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“Ten Hag worked in Bayern Munich when Pep Guardiola was there. We know the impact that had. He’s won a couple of titles and cups in Holland. His style of play is good. He’s got more experience than I think most people think at the age of 52.
“It’s a massive jump but he’s got a good coaching pedigree. He’s not scarred and that’s a good thing – he comes in fresh. I did a poll the other day and I was absolutely stunned – 240,000 people voted and 82 per cent were in favour of bringing him in over (Mauricio) Pochettino.
“I knew that he would be favourite because you can smell it on social media. I think Manchester United fans are demanding a fresh start and a fresh name. They want something that’s completely different that they’ve not had before, and that’s probably gone against Pochettino in some ways.”
Rooney exclusive: I’d choose Pochettino over Ten Hag
Wayne Rooney has tipped Mauricio Pochettino to become the next Manchester United manager, believing his Premier League experience and history of blooding youth places him ahead of Ajax boss Erik ten Hag.
“I think Pochettino has done it in the Premier League,” Rooney said. “He knows the Premier League and at Tottenham he brought a lot of players through. He did it at Southampton as well.
“If I’m choosing from one of the two, that’s who I’d choose. He would need to be given time to place his blueprint on the club and on the team. If you give him time, I think he’d do well.”
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