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Erik Ten Hag’s Uncertain United Future

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Erik Ten Hag’s Uncertain United Future

After the recent 4-3 Champions League loss to FC Copenhagen, that makes it nine losses in all competitions in 2023-24, meaning his United outfit have had the worst start to a campaign in 60 years. This was only compounded by the 3-0 defeat at home to Newcastle in the Carabao Cup, and now being bottom of the Champions League Group A has piled pressure on the Dutchman despite the controversial events of the game.

The Red Devils are currently just six points off the top four in the league, so there’s hope in that aspect. But with below-par performances and results, it begs the question of who can potentially turn the fortunes of the declining giant? We run through a list of potential successors who could reignite this fading club.

Header logoPremier League

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Team logoNewcastle
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8
Team logoMan Utd
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9
Team logoWest Ham
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Last updated 18/05/2024

Roberto De Zerbi

Ten Hag’s ruthless approach and hard-to-identify style of play mean someone who’s progressive with a distinct style of play might be able to bring the entertainment factor back to Old Trafford. There’s not many better in the game right now than Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi. The former Shakhtar Donetsk boss has performed miracles at the Sussex side since taking over in September 2022, taking the club to the Europa League for the first ever time.

De Zerbi insists on his teams to play brave football out from the back, very similar to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, with some reports suggesting De Zerbi could fill the void when the Spaniard leaves City.

The 44-year-old has also proved to develop and improve players, as well as giving talented young players the opportunity to express themselves on the pitch. He has overseen some big transfers since his tenure, most notably Moises Caicedo to Chelsea and Alexis Mac Allister to Liverpool. United should seriously consider swooping for this guy before their bitter local rivals arrive at the party.

Zinedine Zidane

Despite being linked with the United post on several occasions over the past decade, Zinedine Zidane has refrained from joining the English club and has been out of work since May 2021.

There may never be a better time to snap up the Frenchman who famously won three Champions League titles whilst at the helm of Real Madrid, an accomplishment that has never been matched before.

The only downside to Zidane is he has inherited world-class players and a stable boardroom. United would pose a very different challenge as he would have to unite and motivate the dressing room quickly. However, his presence could instantly command respect amongst the team, and his winning mentality at the highest level might just be what’s needed to get the Red Devils out of their current rut.

Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid
Winning three UEFA Champions League finals, a La Liga title, a Supercopa de Espana, two UEFA Super Cup finals and two FIFA Club World Cup finals presents a solid record for Zinedine Zidane. He will be defined by how his side challenge with Barcelona this season.

Kieran McKenna

On the higher risk side, the former United under 18-s and then assistant manager at Manchester United Kieran McKenna is a wildcard appointment that might just make sense. Even when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left, McKenna was offered the chance to stay but he decided to head to East Anglia and take the then vacant managerial position at Ipswich Town.

Since his arrival in Suffolk in December 2021, he has reinstated Ipswich as the Pride of Anglia and racing away from fierce rivals Norwich City. The Tractor Boys currently sit second in the Championship, with an eight-point cushion on nearest challengers Leeds United.

His Town side takes inspiration from De Zerbi, playing front-footed, brave football whilst trusting young players to have big responsibility. Mckenna has carved out a reputation for being a shrewd tactician after his side scored 101 goals and conceded just 35 in the 2022-23 promotion campaign.

A return to Old Trafford is a big stretch at this stage, but he does know the fabric and the DNA of the club. He’s also worked with big players, albeit as a coach but nonetheless, he would certainly be a dark horse to take the reins at United.

McKenna

Unai Emery

A serial overachiever at Sevilla and a multiple trophy winner at Paris Saint-Germain saw Unai Emery and opportunity to have a crack in the Premier League with Arsenal once Arsene Wenger stepped aside. Unfortunately, during his 18-months Emery was unable to get the Gunners back into the top-four, with his tenure ending after just 18 months.

Despite taking a step down, he won the Europa League with Villareal in 2021, reminding doubters of his qualities, which was followed by a semi-final run in the Champions League the following season.

Emery has since taken control at Aston Villa and has proved he can hack it in the Premier League. Since his appointment last October, Villa sit in fifth place in the table and are one of the top scorers in the division. He has developed players like Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa, who are now on the periphery of the England setup.

The Spaniard would be worth considering as he has valuable experience at big clubs. Although United are arguably the biggest club in the world, Emery knows how to maximise resources and develop players who have often lacked direction and motivation. Maybe he could be the man to resurrect Jadon Sancho?

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