Manchester United are closing in on the deal which will see Ajax boss Erik ten Hag become the club’s latest permanent manager, with the Dutchman set to take up his role from July 1
Manchester United are hoping that they have got their search for a new manager spot on – at the fifth time of asking.
Erik ten Hag is set to become the latest name to try and emulate the feats of Sir Alex Ferguson and avoid the mistakes David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all made. The Ajax head coach this week agreed on terms to become the new Red Devils boss with an official announcement expected by the end of the month.
And reports have now leaked the other seven names that were in the frame for the job and the competitors that were ruled out, by either the club, or the manager themselves along the way. The arrival of the 52-year-old marks a long and laborious process which was initially kicked off all the way back in November of last year. That was when Solskjaer was finally relieved of his duties in the wake of a humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford.
United had hoped to name a permanent successor in the weeks following Solskjaer’s dismissal, with ESPN reporting that at the time Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino were the favourites to replace him. However, it was ultimately decided to use Ralf Rangnick as a ‘band aid’ type appointment hired to oversee the team for the remainder of the season.
Recent results may have proven in hindsight that wasn’t the wisest idea and United looked destined to miss out on a top-four spot and a place in next season’s Champions League. But what Rangnick has allowed Old Trafford bosses to do is conduct what they see as a thorough and proper search, rather than the rushed process undertaken by Ed Woodward.
His departure in January is said to have added extra clarity to the search, with Richard Arnold tasking football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher tasked with confirming a new manager before the end of the season.
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ESPN suggest that by the turn of the year, Rodgers’ indifferent season with Leicester City had seen him drop out of the running and while Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann had admirers, it was quickly accepted their hopes of acquiring him were unlikely. Thomas Tuchel was then a name floated in the midst of Chelsea ’s uncertain future following sanctions placed upon the Blues’ owner Roman Abramovich.
But similarly to Nagelsmann, it was made clear that any prospective new buyer would see Tuchel as integral to their plans moving forward and was deemed as one of the most important assets at Stamford Bridge.
Zinedine Zidane was also an intriguing option for Old Trafford chiefs, who were keen to bring in someone that has experience winning big competitions with big clubs. Few have a resume that can stack up to the Frenchman in that respect, having won two LaLigas and four Champions League with Real Madrid.
But the Frenchman stepped away from Madrid right at the height of his powers and is willing to wait for the perfect opportunity for his return, with Paris Saint-Germain the only club job said to be appealing to him at this time.
That left a final four of Pochettino, Ten Hag, Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui. However, it is claimed that the longlist of four, very quickly became a shortlist consisting of just Ten Hag and Pochettino.
The report adds that the winter World Cup ‘killed’ their chances of landing Enrique, who is adamant that he will not leave Spain just months before the big kick-off in Qatar. As for Lopetegui, there was said to be a fear they could be hiring the ‘next Unai Emery’.
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The former Arsenal boss is the talk of Europe this week, having guided Europa League winners Villarreal to the Champions League semis at the expense of Bayern. But his perceived failures in north London and at PSG worked against Lopetegui, whose biggest successes have come away from the game’s biggest teams.
And when it came down to the final two, Murtough’s long relationship with Ten Hag, he has known him since his time at Utrecht, helped counter any concerns that United represents, by far, the biggest challenge of his managerial career so far. As for Pochettino, it is claimed that United felt PSG would play hardball in negotiations and that even once they agreed a compensation package, Real Madrid could swoop in and take him at the 11th hour.
United feel they have landed a rising star in Ten Hag and one who can build a young and exciting team, as he has done at Ajax. It now remains to be seen whether Murtough’s first major call in his role proves to be the holy grail or another red herring for the Red Devils.