Advertisement

Erik ten Hag stays as Manchester United manager and is in talks over new contract

Erik ten Hag celebrates
Erik ten Hag is staying as Manchester United manager - Getty Images/Michael Regan

Erik ten Hag will remain as Manchester United manager, with the club now entering talks over a new contract.

The decision follows months of uncertainty over the Dutchman’s future at Old Trafford and an extensive end-of-season review having taken place over the past fortnight.

Talks were held on Tuesday with Ten Hag, who has returned from holiday in Ibiza and who wanted to continue at United despite knowing the club had discussed replacing him with other managers.

However, Ten Hag was becoming increasingly frustrated at the delay over his future and not least because, he felt, it was beginning to impact on transfer plans. It is understood he insisted on a decision being made this week.

It represents a dramatic reprieve for Ten Hag who had gone into the FA Cup Final against Manchester City under severe pressure, only to mastermind an impressive 2-1 win over the Premier League champions at Wembley Stadium that strengthened opposition among fans at the prospect of a fifth permanent managerial change in 10 years.

Erik ten Hag celebrates winning the FA Cup
Ten Hag mastermined United's shock FA Cup victory - Getty Images/Ash Donelon

One report had claimed Ten Hag would be sacked even if he won the cup but while there was little doubt his position was under serious threat, senior club sources had long maintained that a final decision would not be made until the review had been completed.

United admit that they have considered other options but have concluded that Ten Hag should carry on. Talks were held with the outgoing Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel, who has decided to take a break from football, although United sources insist he was ruled out of contention along with Mauricio Pochettino. Kieran McKenna, another candidate, signed a new contract at newly-promoted Ipswich Town.

Also considered were Roberto de Zerbi and Brentford’s Thomas Frank, but United maintain that they are now fully aligned with Ten Hag and have already opened negotiations over a new deal with his current contract due to expire on June 30, 2025.

United insist the key point is that their decision draws a line under the uncertainty over Ten Hag and that both parties agree they will move forward together.

However, it will also raise the suspicion that United actually cannot get their ideal candidate at present – potentially England manager Gareth Southgate – and are prepared to bide their time and see whether Ten Hag can turn around their fortunes.

United finished eighth in the Premier League with a negative goal difference, their lowest placing for 34 years, and crashed out of the Champions League after finishing bottom of their group.

Bedevilled by injuries

Ten Hag, 54, admitted after the FA Cup triumph that the season had been “a mess” even if he still secured European qualification, for the Europa League.

But he also blamed United’s struggles squarely on an unrelenting injury crisis that robbed him of a settled defence for most of the campaign. Ten Hag argued that the lack of infrastructure and support within the club, which is being rectified by co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, did not help him either.

This has been accepted, with United believing Ten Hag deserves the chance to show what more he is capable of within the new sporting organisation that is being built under incoming chief executive Omar Berrada.

Ten Hag felt the injuries provided serious mitigation for United’s problems and that, with a more settled team bolstered by a few key arrivals in this summer’s window to complement young talents such as Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund, they will improve dramatically.

Diogo Dalot, Rasmus Hojlund, Amad, Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United celebrate winning the FA Cup
United have got an exciting group of young players - Getty Images/Ash Donelon

All those arguments have been taken on board by United who are prioritising the recruitment of at least one centre-half, a defensive midfielder and a striker this summer. One of Ten Hag’s frustrations had been how the delay over his future was impacting these plans and, therefore, following a familiar pattern at the club.

It is unclear at this stage to what extent the prospect of a fan backlash to any dismissal, and concerns over the credentials of the candidates to replace him, influenced United’s decision, but they arrived at the view that Ten Hag should remain.

Doubts had been cast over Ten Hag’s long-term future the moment it was confirmed in December that Ratcliffe had agreed a deal in principle with the Glazers for a minority stake that would see the Ineos owner effectively take over day-to-day running of the club.

A £1.3 billion deal for a 27.7 per cent stake in the club was finally rubberstamped in February, but Ten Hag never received any public assurances from Ratcliffe over his position.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe congratulates Erik ten Hag for winning the FA Cup
Sir Jim Ratcliffe failed to give any public assurances over Ten Hag's position - Getty Images/Matthew Peters

Publicly, Ten Hag insisted that he and Ineos were “on the same page” but, as results and performances worsened and uncertainty over his position grew, he took increasingly to defending his record.

After Telegraph Sport revealed in April that United’s new technical director Jason Wilcox had been tasked with auditing Ten Hag and establishing a clear playing style and identity to be mirrored throughout the club, the manager used his official programme notes before a game against Burnley to defend his position.

Ten Hag insisted he was imposing a “shared-game model, with consistent training methods and playing styles”, and took umbrage at any suggestion to the contrary.

United argue that a season review is not unreasonable, especially under a new ownership structure, and that this will take place after every campaign. However, it is likely to be a speedier process than this time round.

Ten Hag is also likely to exert much less control over transfers under the new regime than previously, and act more as a head coach than manager.

Appointed two years ago in the wake of a highly-successful period with Ajax when he won three Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Cups and guided the Dutch club to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, Ten Hag overcame a torrid start to lead United to Carabao Cup glory and a third-place finish in the Premier League in his debut season.

Erik ten Hag and Sir Alex Ferguson celebrate with the Carabao Cup
Ten Hag won the Carabao Cup in his debut season at United - Getty Images/Matthew Peters

He strived to raise standards and impose new levels of discipline after claiming he had inherited a “no-good culture” at Old Trafford and famously won a power battle with Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal forward exited by mutual consent in November 2022 after giving an explosive, unauthorised interview in which he accused Ten Hag of “betraying” him.

Off-field problems made task harder

If anything, though, the off-field challenges only worsened this season, and were not helped by a dreadful injury crisis that deprived him of key players such as Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw for long periods.

A bitter falling-out with Jadon Sancho led to the England forward being loaned to Borussia Dortmund in January and Ten Hag also faced the ignominy of his most expensive signing, Antony, failing spectacularly to deliver on the pitch and off it, being forced to fight assault allegations made by a former girlfriend that resulted in a period of paid leave. Antony denies any wrongdoing.

The manager also twice had to reprimand Marcus Rashford over his off-field behaviour and watched the England striker’s form plummet after a career-best 30-goal haul the season before.

Given a huge degree of control over transfers under Richard Arnold and John Murtough, who stepped down as chief executive and football director respectively this season to make way for Ratcliffe’s Ineos team, it did not help Ten Hag that too many of his signings disappointed, failed to address more pressing needs or were short-term stop gaps.

In addition to the much-criticised £85.5 million signing of Antony in September 2022, the arrival of 30-year-old Casemiro for £70 million followed a fruitless 14-week pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, and the money squandered ultimately left United without the funds to pursue a deal for England striker Harry Kane last summer. It placed a huge burden on youngster Rasmus Hojlund to lead the line and it is no surprise United again struggled for goals this term.

Goalkeeper Andre Onana – signed for £47 million for Inter Milan having been available on a free transfer 12 months earlier – overcame a troubled start to impress but £60 million midfield signing Mason Mount made just five league starts during an injury-ravaged debut season.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.