Manchester United decide to sack Erik ten Hag regardless of Cup final outcome

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Manchester United have decided to sack Erik ten Hag after the FA Cup final against Manchester City.

In an echo of United parting company with Louis van Gaal despite winning the FA Cup in 2016, it is understood that even beating City at Wembley on Saturday will not save Ten Hag.

The ruthless decision to change manager will be the most significant move made by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his allies since Ineos agreed to take a minority stake in the club last December and assumed control of football operations. United, who appointed Ten Hag two years ago, have felt compelled to act after ending a fraught campaign eighth in the Premier League, their lowest finish since 1990.

The team’s struggles this season have caused faith in Ten Hag to dwindle. United will have a last shot at qualifying for Europe when they face City – causing an upset against the champions would earn a place in the Europa League – but the hierarchy do not want to make a decision based on one game.

The challenge for Ten Hag, who has said he has already met with Ratcliffe and the minority owner’s advisers to review the season, will be ensuring his players are not distracted by the noise around his position. For United, the focus will soon switch to picking a replacement for the former Ajax manager. They are considering Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna, England’s Gareth Southgate, Graham Potter and Brentford’s Thomas Frank.

The next manager will need to work in the new structure United are implementing. Ratcliffe’s close advisers include Sir Dave Brailsford, the acting chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc and the technical director Jason Wilcox. Omar Berrada is due to take over as chief executive, Dan Ashworth as sporting director.

Tuchel is regarded as the frontrunner but it is understood United have held exploratory talks with Pochettino. They have also spoken to representatives of McKenna, who has been targeted by Chelsea and Brighton.

Thomas TuchelView image in fullscreen

Ten Hag has cut an embattled figure since the start of the season. There have been questions over the quality of his coaching, his tactics have been criticised and many of his signings have not worked out. Antony, the £86m winger, has been a huge disappointment since arriving from Ajax two years ago and Rasmus Højlund, the Denmark striker, has had a difficult season.

André Onana, the goalkeeper, has been erratic since joining from Inter last season and Casemiro, the Brazil midfielder, has struggled this season to keep up with the pace of English football. Injuries have meant that Mason Mount has barely featured since joining from Chelsea.

Ten Hag can point to the unavailability of many important players as a key factor in his inability to make his tactics work. Luke Shaw has missed most of the season at left-back and Harry Maguire has also been ruled out of the final. United have been forced to use Casemiro in central defence in recent weeks.

There have been many indignities this season. United finished bottom of their Champions League group, lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth and were thrashed 4-0 by Crystal Palace this month. The Cup, though, has brought some respite. United showed their quality with a 4-3 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals, although they followed that by blowing a 3-0 lead against Coventry City before beating the Championship team on penalties.

Ten Hag has repeatedly fought his corner, even claiming United have been one of the most exciting teams in the league this season. He won the Carabao Cup and finished third last season. It seemed he was on the right track, even though his debut campaign also included a 7-0 defeat at Liverpool.

The task of reviving United since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 has been beyond all of the Scot’s successors. Ten Hag, who came in after Ralf Rangnick’s spell as interim, pointed to those lean times on Thursday. “So in the last 10 years not so many trophies in this club, but we have an opportunity to win two trophies in two years,” he said.

Ten Hag was asked whether he had talks planned with the hierarchy. “No, we already did and on Sunday I will go on holiday,” he said. “I think I deserve it.”

United are due to conduct a final review before making an announcement on Ten Hag’s future. Their debrief is likely to focus on the chaotic nature of their performances this season. United had a habit of squandering leads and conceding late goals and tended to allow opponents an astonishing number of shots. Ten Hag also clashed with Jadon Sancho, who will play in next Saturday’s Champions League final after joining Borussia Dortmund on loan.

Bruno FernandesView image in fullscreen

On Friday Bruno Fernandes said he wanted to stay at United, provided the club’s ambitions match his. “I love to step out at Old Trafford more than anything in the world,” the captain wrote on The Players’ Tribune. “I don’t want to leave. This has always been my ultimate dream. I just want my expectations to fit with the expectations of the club. If you go talk to any fan, they will tell you the same thing.

“We want to compete for the league. We want to be playing Champions League football. We want to be in cup finals. That is the standard. That is what I want. That is what you all deserve.”


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