Well, this is awkward.
Manchester United’s players were asked who they wanted to be announced as the permanent successor to Ralf Rangnick as the club’s manager – and they almost unanimously named Mauricio Pochettino as their preferred option.
The Manchester Evening News has reported that United’s squad are reportedly impressed by his ‘body of work’, and the fact that he is still in touch with a number of Red Devils who he has worked with before – including Luke Shaw – is thought to have put him in pole position.
Indeed, it was even reported that the club tried to sign Pochettino in November – before turning to Rangnick as very much a Plan B option.
But like a kid at Christmas that doesn’t get that shiny new bicycle, United’s players may not be getting what they want – Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is as short as 1/20 with the bookmakers to be named as the new head coach at Old Trafford.
Sky Sports is reporting that the Dutchman will sign a three-year deal, with an option for a fourth, and take over in time for the start of the 2022/23 season. It’s been claimed that United have agreed compensation with Ajax for as little as £2 million.
According to the media outlet, only the ‘formalities’ are left to hammer out, and with the bookies essentially stopping taking bets on the next Manchester United manager market, it’s likely that the 52-year-old will be announced in the upcoming days.
Who is Erik ten Hag?
As is not that uncommon these days for coaches at the elite level, Erik ten Hag’s playing career was fairly unextraordinary. He spent a decade playing for the likes of FC Twente, De Graafschap and FC Utrecht, flitting between the Dutch Eredivisie and Eerste Division. His highlight was lifting the KNVB Cup – the equivalent of the FA Cup – with Twente in 2001.
His first job in management came at Go Ahead Eagles, whose major shareholder – Arsenal legend Marc Overmars – was impressed with the vision he presented.
Ten Hag took the Eagles to promotion in his only season in charge, and decided to move on to Bayern Munich’s reserve team, where he served for two years before getting sacked.
A return to one of his footballing spiritual homes, Utrecht, saw ten Hag take the club to fifth and then fourth place in the Eredivisie – the latter booking their return to European football.
So impressed were Ajax by those achievements that they offered the Dutchman the chance to join them in December 2017 – it would have been tough for him to turn that role down given his preference for ‘total football’.
Together, Ajax have been transformed into a side that you would expect them to be – attacking, free-flowing and fluid, with ten Hag’s 4-2-3-1 system often resembling a 2-4-4 such is his commitment to scoring goals….the Old Trafford faithful will love that.
He has guided the Amsterdam club to a Champions League semi-final, an Eredivisie title (with another possibly coming in May) and two KNVB Cup triumphs….not bad for such a short stint in charge.
He may not be Pochettino, but ten Hag could be the manager United have been crying out for.