Erik ten Hag at grave risk of sack – even if Man Utd win FA Cup

Erik ten Hag heads into Stockport station
Erik ten Hag sets off for London for the FA Cup final against Manchester City - Zenpix Ltd/Paul Cousans

Erik ten Hag is under severe threat of being sacked as Manchester United manager even if he masterminds a Wembley upset in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Although senior United sources were still insisting on Friday night that no final decision has been made on Ten Hag’s future and that a full review of the season would be carried out next week, club officials have spent much of this week holding talks with representatives of potential replacements as the axe looms for the Dutchman.

Louis van Gaal was sacked by United despite winning the FA Cup in 2016 and his countryman Ten Hag is now at grave risk of the same fate even if Premier League champions City are beaten at Wembley and stopped from becoming the first English club to do the double Double.

On another turbulent day at United, it emerged that the club have scheduled talks with the agents of Brentford manager Thomas Frank having already had dialogue with representatives of other candidates including Kieran McKenna, Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Gareth Southgate.

Meanwhile, captain Bruno Fernandes wants assurances the club can match his ambitions amid doubts over his future after admitting his “frustration” following a torrid season.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos team, who assumed full control of football operations at Old Trafford from the Glazers in February, have repeatedly refused to offer Ten Hag any public guarantees that he will remain in charge beyond the end of the season.

Thomas Frank
Manchester United are understood to have scheduled talks with representatives of Thomas Frank, the Brentford manager - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

Sources have maintained that a decision on Ten Hag’s future would not be determined by the outcome of the final and United’s new technical director Jason Wilcox has been busy in recent weeks making recommendations for the board about the manager’s approach, style of play, suitability to the role and relations with the dressing room.

United endured a dismal end to an injury plagued season as Ten Hag’s authority in the dressing room began to wane amid increasing doubts over his future. The club finished eighth in the Premier League with a negative goal difference, their lowest league finish for 34 years.

With Mauricio Pochettino departing as Chelsea manager by mutual consent on Tuesday, United expedited their managerial contingency plans amid interest in some of the same candidates as the west London club.

They have held talks with representatives of Tuchel, who is leaving Bayern Munich, Pochettino himself and their former first team coach, McKenna, who left Old Trafford for Ipswich in 2021 and subsequently guided the club to back-to-back promotions to the Premier League. United are also thought to have pencilled in discussions with representatives of Frank.

Southgate also remains in strong contention for the post although he would not be available to start work until mid to late July given his commitment to England at Euro 2024 this summer. Former Chelsea and Brighton manager Graham Potter has also been linked.

Some reports have suggested Tuchel is the front-runner but it is understood there are some doubts about whether he is the right fit, character-wise, for what United want at this stage.

Thomas Tuchel
United have also held talks with agents of Thomas Tuchel - Getty Images/Markus Gilliar

While Jose Mourinho had already been lined up in 2016 to replace Van Gaal, whose exit was confirmed within 48 hours of winning the Cup, Ineos appear so far to be keeping their options open.

Sacking Ten Hag, who has a year left on his contract, and his staff could cost United at least £10 million and there would also be hefty compensation to pay for some of the candidates to potentially replace the Dutchman at a time when the purse strings are very tight heading into a challenging summer.

Failure to beat City at Wembley would see United miss out on European qualification entirely and heighten the need to sell well in the summer window to raise funds to reinvest in the squad.

Fernandes, 29, is not a player United are actively looking to move on but there is interest from Saudi Arabia and Europe in the club’s captain and, given his age, it is thought a big offer would have to be considered.

After a season in which his squad has been ravaged by injury, Ten Hag will only be missing defenders Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia against City.

Striker Anthony Martial has been out since early December but is available to face City while defender Victor Lindelof has been sidelined since the end of March but has also been included in the squad.

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