Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Next Man Utd manager: Gareth Southgate issues strong response over taking Ten Hag job as Harry Maguire makes feelings clear

Man Utd manager contender Gareth Southgate and, inset, Harry Maguire

Man Utd manager contender Gareth Southgate and, inset, Harry Maguire

Gareth Southgate has issued an emphatic response to claims he will become the next Manchester United manager after sending a strong message to Erik ten Hag and revealing why his immediate thoughts are purely on leading England to European Championship success.

The future of Ten Hag at Old Trafford is under intense scrutinty after a inconsistent season and amid claims the club’s new minority shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe is considering a major change at the top. Indeed, despite having a great chance of leading Manchester United to successive FA Cup finals – they face Championship outfit Coventry in the semi-finals at Wembley – it is their struggles both in the Champions League earlier this season, as well as a failure to enjoy consistent results in the Premier League for which he is being judged.

Indeed, they have already lost 16 times across all competitions this season, leading to claims that Ten Hag is a deadman walking at Old Trafford and that is struggling to get a tune out of his players.

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As a result, speculation over whom will step into the Dutchman’s shoes if the axe does fall has intensified in recent weeks, leading to claims Ratcliffe, alongside incoming new sporting director Dan Ashworth, has decided that Southgate would be the ideal candidate to step into the job.

Indeed, a bold reports earlier this week claimed Ratcliffe was ‘optimistic’ of landing his man, while the Man Utd players were also supportive of the plan.

And their hopes of appointing the 53-year-old have also been lifted after it came to light that it would only take a payment of £800,000 to the FA to buy Southgate out of his contract as England coach.

Next Man Utd manager: Southgate addresses Ten Hag speculation

His current arrangement is due to expire in December of this year, with that uncertainty over his future only fuelling the United rumours.

However, Southgate has now spoken out to emphatically rule out a move to replace Ten Hag, insisting it is disrespectful to the Dutchman for him to talk about his job, while also insisting his only focus is on helping England achieve Euro 2024 glory.

“I think there are two things from my point of view, one is that I’m the England manager, I’ve got one job basically – to try and deliver a European Championship. Clearly before that, there are two important games this week,” he said.

“Second thing is, Manchester United have a manager and I think it is always completely disrespectful when there is a manager in place. I’m president of the LMA [League Managers’ Association] so I don’t have any time for that sort of thing really.”

Officials at the FA are keen for Southgate to extend his deal as England coach through to the 2026 World Cup, though Southgate has always remained adamant that he will not discuss his future until after the nation’s fate at the Euros has been decided.

To that end, he has made it clear that he must help push his elite squad over players to success this summer.

Asked for the state of play on his England contract, he added: “I think I’ve answered this every time I’ve sat with you. My focus is the European Championship. If we did a contract here before then everybody would be saying, ‘Why are you signing a contract before a Euros where you’ve got to prove yourself?’

“I’m certainly not going to speak to anyone else, I never have. I’ve been eight years in the job and would never entertain speaking to anyone else while I’m in a job, so I don’t know if that answers your question.”

Ten Hag out, Southgate in? Harry Maguire has his say

One man who knows both coaches well is Man Utd and England defender Harry Maguire, who has made his feelings clear on how the land lies at international level.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s glamour friendly against Brazil at Wembley, Maguire was asked if he would like Southgate to remain in charge of England.

“Yeah, definitely, obviously,” he responded.

“We want to be successful in the Euros – we are not looking at the World Cup at the moment – but obviously if we are successful at the Euros, which is our main focus, of course, we want to be successful.

“If Gareth’s the man to make us be successful then we want him to stay as long as possible. I’ve had a great relationship with him. I’ve been a big part of the success and the progression that we’ve shown as a country.

“And I’m sure he will say the same thing now, it’s all about winning a trophy. I don’t know what’s going to happen after the Euros, I don’t know if he knows what’s going to happen.

“But I feel like what he’s done from when he first took over this job to where we are at now, we’ve taken huge strides and he’s a massive part of that.

“He’s definitely got the recognition and respect of the players, and people who are close to him. And people whose opinions matter to him.”

Man Utd man has faith in his manager

The 31-year-old England defender knows the life of England manager is tough, but insists Southgate has handled everything thrown at him brilliantly and with the utmost professionalism.

“Listen, being the England manager is so tough. It’s one of the most scrutinised jobs in the world,’ the 31-year-old, who has 62 caps for his country, added.

“All you can look at is where we were before he took over, and where we are now. Everyone will say “yeah but we’ve got great talent coming through, better players now.”

Southgate has confirmed Harry Kane, Cole Palmer and Jordan Henderson will all miss Saturday’s game at Wembley through injury, while the Bayern Munich striker is also “extremely doubtful” for Tuesday’s visit of Belgium and is expected to return to Germany for treatment once Saturday’s game is over.

The skipper will be in the stands to watch his teammates, with Kyle Walker taking the armband instead.

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In his absence, Southgate will choose between Ollie Watkins or Ivan Toney to lead the line but has refused to disclose which of the pair will be given the nod to start.

“Well, that is a decision we will have to make because clearly a 9 is a specialist position,” Southgate said when asked if three out-and-out strikers is too many in a 23-man squad.

“They have different attributes and that would depend a little bit on injury status in other positions in the squad and also having perhaps players that can play more than one role,” he said.

“I think both of them are aware that the opportunity is a big one. But they’re both in good form, they’ve both had time with us.

“Ollie’s been with us more recently, of course, and has done well in the games he’s played. He’s had a fabulous season for his club.

“Ivan, since he’s come back into Brentford’s team, has had the impact we expected him to, so they are two very, very good players.”