Things are not going well for Manchester United and their manager, Erik ten Hag.
The Red Devils have endured a difficult start to the 2023/24 season. They lost four of their opening nine Premier League games and three of their four UEFA Champions League matches, twice throwing away the lead in games against Copenhagen and Galatasaray following a 4-3 opening loss away to Bayern Munich.
There was a resurgence in results in October and early November as they won three matches in a row, but performances were still being questioned. By the time they lost 2-0 at home to Manchester City, inside less than an hour at Old Trafford, doubts were again raised about the team’s progress. The game finished 3-0 in front of largely empty home stands; against Newcastle United three days later, things were worryingly similar.
Add in persistent injury problems and an ownership saga that shows no sign of ending and it’s been a challenging few months on the red side of Manchester.
Could Ten Hag become the fifth permanent United manager to lose his job in the past 10 years?
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Despite the dreadful run of results, there was no indication that ten Hag was close to being fired by Manchester United, and their recent league form has bought the Dutchman time.
He’s made it to the international break with four league wins from five, although performances have still been rather toothless.
The former Ajax boss was backed heavily in the transfer market in a bid to create the team he believes can challenge for top honours again, and he has credit in the bank from 2022/23, when he oversaw United’s Carabao Cup win and secured a return to the Champions League.
The pressure is building, however, with the loss in Copenhagen sharpening the focus on ten Hag.
Ten Hag still has support within the club but there is no doubt results must improve if that is to continue. There is also the potential that, if Sir Jim Ratcliffe buys a minority stake in the club and takes over the sporting side of United, the businessman could choose to appoint his own preferred manager.
According to an update from The Times, the club were considering potential options to replace Ten Hag a few weeks ago, with the former Ajax boss’ position at Old Trafford on “thin ice”.
One of the favourites to be the next permanent Man United manager is a man linked with the job previously: Zinedine Zidane. The former Real Madrid boss has not taken a new coaching role since leaving Los Blancos in 2021.
Julian Nagelsmann is another possible candidate, although it seems highly unlikely he would return to club football so quickly after taking the Germany job in September ahead of next year’s UEFA Euro 2024 finals in the country. Sporting Lisbon head coach Ruben Amorim is also on United’s radar.
Perhaps the most likely option is Graham Potter. The Englishman was sacked by Chelsea in April 2023 after a short and disappointing spell in charge, but there have been reports that Sir Jim Ratcliffe would like him at the club.
Ten Hag will have to oversee an upturn in performances and results if his job is to remain secure heading into 2024.
The coming fixtures could well be decisive when it comes to his future. It’s worth remembering that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ten Hag’s predecessor as full-time manager, was sacked shortly after consecutive home losses to City and Liverpool in October and November of 2021.