The three-word mantra behind Manchester United's decision on Erik ten Hag

It remains to be seen what Ineos will decide to do with Erik ten Hag at Man Utd.
The jury is still out on Erik ten Hag at Manchester UnitedThe jury is still out on Erik ten Hag at Manchester United
The jury is still out on Erik ten Hag at Manchester United

‘Best in class.’

The ambition has been very clear from the Ineos Group since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s stake in the club was ratified. Manchester United have already raided Man City for a new chief executive and are looking to take Dan Ashworth from Newcastle, as well as Jason Wilcox from Southampton.

They are all industry leaders in their respective fields and a clear indication from Ratcliffe and co. that they are committed to making United an elite club again. Yet those ambitious appointments won’t be a success unless they have a first-team manager in place who fits the criteria as well.

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As we approach the final month of the campaign, the jury is still very much out on Erik ten Hag. United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League appear to be all but over after they drew with Bournemouth last weekend, while not even the prospect of an FA Cup win would be enough to make this season a success. Just ask Louis van Gaal.

It is true Ten Hag deserves real sympathy with the injury issues and off-field dramas he has had to deal with during his time in charge of United, but these excuses have not always been valid and have sometimes distracted from the wider issues at play. Some supporters would argue that he deserves the opportunity to prove himself under a coherent sporting structure implemented by Ineos, while others will say they have already seen enough to realise Ten Hag is not the man who will return them to their former glories.

Those doubts make it difficult to settle on a firm decision of what to do next. Ratcliffe and United’s new hierarchy can’t afford to have any doubts. Omar Berrada will be the man tasked with advising Ineos on what to do next and on identifying the ideal managerial candidate if a change is to happen. Regardless of what happens next, background checks are already being made on a whole host of potential candidates in case they are needed.

United are right to take such an approach but the issue for them is that the longer they wait, the fewer options they might have available to them. Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are all definitely in the market for a new manager, while United and Chelsea could also be on the lookout depending on their respective ends to the season.

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If indeed United reach the decision that they do want to appoint a new first-team manager then they could well be too late to get their top target for the role. Not exactly in keeping with their best in class approach. Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi are understood to be the current frontrunners for the job, should it become available. It is understood Ineos also admire Julian Nagelsmann but he looks poised to return to Bayern Munich following the conclusion of the European Championship campaign with Germany.

With the greater clarity surrounding the situations at Liverpool, Bayern and Barcelona, it should be easier for them to get their top targets for the upcoming vacancies and by the time United make their mind up, they could find themselves without as much choice as they would like.

If they decide that Ten Hag isn’t the best in class, then they better act quick.

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