The race to become Manchester United’s next manager is hotting up and one name that is making a late charge up the list of favourites is Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.
United legend Paul Scholes discussed the Austrian’s potential for the role in the pre-match build up to the game on BT Sports (via The Mirror), saying:
‘As a sporting director, he was the right choice at the right time for Leipzig – did brilliantly – and I’ve always liked him. I’ve always thought the football he plays at Southampton with not the best squad… The type of football has worked for them. His teams have been good to watch, I think it comes across really well.
‘The more I think about it, I don’t think it would be a bad thing. The way he goes about his business, he looks good.’
Aside from the fantastic job Hasenhuttl is doing at Southampton, cited in his favour is his prior relationship with United’s interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who will be staying on in a consultancy role and is expected to take a leading role in the next permanent manager’s appointment.
The pair worked closely together at RB Leipzig between 2016 and 2018.
The flames of the story were fanned this week by claims from Southampton’s chief executive Martin Semmens that Hasenhuttl was helping him to find his own replacement at St Mary’s, indicating that he was set to leave at the end of the season.
Semmens told BBC Five Live (via The Mirror):
‘’When you go and look for a new manager – and for the record we do a huge amount of recruitment and scouting on new managers – and we do know potentially who our new manager will be, and Ralph and I have talked about it, it’s not something to be scared of saying out loud [because] people don’t like to say that, but it’s just as important as buying a new striker.’
The mounting rumours have been put to the 54 year old, who laughed it off, saying:
‘This is not in my mind and also not the things that are interesting me.
‘I don’t want to speak about my future every week.
‘Last week we spoke about different things, and this week we should be speaking about the game we have now against Everton.
‘This is more interesting for me, my whole focus and whole energy is on this game. Anything else I will leave to other people.’ (Source: fourfourtwo.com).
The fact that Hasenhuttl has Premier League experience is a point in his favour of course, but that previous relationship with Rangnick may or may not be to his advantage.
Whilst the pair enjoyed success together at Leipzig, The Athletic notes that the relationship did start to deteriorate when the Austrian started to challenge and move away from Rangnick’s methods.
‘What started as a blossoming partnership ended under a grey cloud two years later, with Hasenhuttl walking out of his contract 12 months early and RB Leipzig happy to hold the exit door open for him,’ reporters Dan Sheldon and Carl Anka write.
The report explains that despite ‘an incredible maiden season … which ended with RB Leipzig finishing second behind Bayern Munich and sealing Champions League qualification, … cracks were already starting to appear in the relationship between Rangnick and Hasenhuttl throughout the second half of the campaign.
One problem was that ‘Hasenhuttl found Rangnick’s influence overbearing at times, although [he] did not take control in a way a head coach could, which is why his boss would hover over his shoulder.’
Another was that ‘Hasenhuttl was keen to alter Rangnick’s blueprint and make tweaks to how RB Leipzig played.
‘He wanted there to be more of a focus to their work on the ball as opposed to off it.
‘Some say Rangnick did not want Hasenhuttl to veer away from his blueprint, while others say that the German had no issue with it as long as the team did not lose their identity.
‘Ultimately, Rangnick is said to have felt that the team had stopped doing what they were great at and were stuck in a halfway house of trying to be a competent side on the ball and effective out of possession.’
There were, in that second season, many disagreements between the two according to the report.
However, the fact is that the pair did enjoy great success together and still have very similar principles.
The Athletic concludes that there are no grudges and that ‘privately, the Manchester United manager is said to speak highly of his former colleague and Hasenhuttl was equally as forthcoming in his praise of the 63-year-old.’
Whether this would mean they would work together again remains unclear.