Ajax coach Erik ten Hag is Manchester United’s preferred option to become their next manager.
As it stands, Ten Hag is United’s prime choice to take over in the summer but the club has not made a final decision as it continues with its process.
The Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino remains under serious consideration and United have refused to rule out an approach for Thomas Tuchel amid uncertainty at Chelsea.
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The Manchester Evening News reported in November Spain coach Luis Enrique has admirers at Old Trafford while Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui, respected for his work at Sevilla, emerged among the contenders in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal in November. Brendan Rodgers was informally approached while Solskjaer was still in charge but no longer regarded as a serious candidate.
The MEN revealed in January United intend to settle on their next manager before the end of the season to accelerate plans for the summer. The 2022-23 season starts earlier than usual on August 6.
Ten Hag and Pochettino remain the frontrunners and negotiations with either coach could be smoother after PSG and Ajax were both ejected from the Champions League at the round-of-16 this month. PSG are cantering to the Ligue 1 title with a 15-point advantage but Ajax are only two points ahead of PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie.
Ten Hag, 52, is contracted to Ajax until next year and would command a relatively low compensation fee. The Dutchman guided Ajax to their first title in five years in 2019, when they knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus as they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997.
United are impressed by how Ten Hag has assembled two successful teams either side of the sales of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong in 2019. Ten Hag’s potential for longevity also appeals as he joined Ajax in December 2017.
Pochettino, 50, is expected to be sacked by PSG after their disastrous Champions League elimination by Real Madrid, who recovered from 2-0 down on aggregate to win 3-2.
Pochettino has wanted to manage United for a number of years. Pochettino only accepted the PSG role in December 2020 as United failed to follow through with their approach for the Argentinian when he was out of work after Tottenham sacked him in November 2019.
United explored the possibility of releasing Pochettino from his contract in November and the former Tottenham coach was prepared to join the club mid-season. However, PSG played ‘hardball’, effectively a face-saving exercise by the club’s Qatari owners, who are reluctant to yield to European football’s traditional elite.
Tuchel is tied to Chelsea until 2024, a prohibitive length on his contract, and his commendable handling of the club’s situation is expected to intensify the desire of the club’s next owners to keep the German.
Roman Abramovich announced his intention to sell Chelsea on March 2 and the Russian oligarch was subsequently sanctioned by the UK government over his ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation suspected Evraz plc, a steel company Abramovich had effective control of, supplied steel to the Russian military to produce tanks for their war in Ukraine. Abramovich has not condemned the invasion in either of his two statements by him.
Enrique practically ticks every box due to his big-club experience of coaching Barcelona, managing of egos, nurturing of young players, intense and demanding style, as well as his aim of managing in the Premier League. However, it is highly unlikely Enrique would walk away from the Spain job before the World Cup, which starts on November 18.
Lopetegui, 55, took over at Sevilla almost three years ago and guided them to victory in the Europa League in 2020, beating United in the semi-finals.