Manchester United’s search for a new manager has gathered pace this week and some facts are becoming clearer as the situation progresses. There are four candidates widely reported to be on the shortlist and the position of each has become clearer over the course of the week. Here are the latest developments.
1. Erik ten Hag has been interviewed and wants the job.
Ajax manager Erik ten Hag is clearly one of the top candidates for the job and widespread reports from reliable sources claim that he has been interviewed by United for the job on Monday.
The interview is said to have gone well, with his level of English being considered adequate and ‘United think the fact that Ajax’s system, which leaves the manager to coach the team rather than be responsible for recruitment and other matters, would suit Ten Hag if appointed,’ The Times reports.
The fact that the interview took place obviously confirms that the Dutchman is interested in the job.
The Times also says that if appointed, the 51-year-old would want to bring his assistant at Ajax, Mitchell van der Gaag, and other backroom staff along with him.
‘It is also likely that he would bring in a Dutch coach who has a bond with United,’ The Times says, namechecking Robin van Persie, Jaap Stam and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The compensation payable to Ajax would only be around £4 million.
2. Mauricio Pochettino’s candidacy all hinges on how his PSG contract is terminated.
Compensation payable for the other frontrunner for the job, former Spurs boss Pochettino, is much more of a bone of contention.
After an underwhelming season managing galacticos such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Poch could be facing the axe at PSG, with Zinedine Zidane widely tipped to replace him.
However, as The Telegraph points out, ‘It is understood that Pochettino – who has just over 15 months remaining on his contract – and his staff would be entitled to a compensation package of between £15m and £20m if jettisoned.’
On the other hand, if United headhunt him and PSG hold on, it would be United paying compensation to the French club. So this thorny issue looks to have led to a bit of a Mexican standoff that could drag on into the summer.
United want to crack on before then – The Athletic’s David Ornstein claims they want to make the announcement by the end of this month – so this could mean that they push ahead with Ten Hag and forget Pochettino.
It is also possible that United could pretend to be close to signing Ten Hag to fool PSG into sacking Pochettino sooner rather than waiting for them to come for him. This strategy could explain some of the news stories that have been leaked this week, including that of the Dutchman’s interview.
3. Luis Enrique is highly unlikely to get the job.
Whilst The Times claims that United also intend to interview the Spain head coach for the job, The Telegraph is rightly skeptical.
‘With Enrique understood to be committed to managing Spain at the World Cup finals in Qatar in November and December, it is difficult to envisage how he could be in a position to take over at Old Trafford unless United agreed to a job share for seven months or Ralf Rangnick’s interim position was extended or another stop-gap brought in.’
His level of English may also be an issue.
For those reasons, it does seem very improbable that the former Barcelona star will be sitting in the Old Trafford dugout next season.
4. Julen Lopetegui is the most realistic backup option.
The Sevilla boss does speak some English and has an excellent pedigree. The only blot on his excellent copybook was his sacking from Real Madrid, but some say he was on a hiding to nothing, following Zinedine Zidane, not being first choice and not having been given time to impose his philosophy (he was sacked after just 138 days).
He has certainly over-achieved with Sevilla, who currently sit second in La Liga and who beat United in that Europa League final last term.
Whether he would be interested in the job is another question, but on paper he does seem like a much better fit than Enrique. According to fichajes.net via A Bola, United are in the process of ‘putting a proposal in his hands’.