Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Second source confirms top manager gunning for Man Utd job, with Ratcliffe braced for De Zerbi rejection

Julen Lopetegui and Unai Emery

Julen Lopetegui embraces Unai Emery before La Liga game in 2021

Sir Jim Ratcliffe could be given a reprieve in his hunt for a new Manchester United manager, with Julen Lopetegui reportedly a prime candidate to replace Erik ten Hag amid uncertainty over Roberto de Zerbi’s availability.

Sources have confirmed to TEAMtalk that senior Man Utd players are growing increasingly frustrated with Ten Hag and are even expecting him to be sacked by Ratcliffe once the new owner arrives at Old Trafford. Ratcliffe and his recruitment team are huge fans of De Zerbi, who has done an excellent job at Brighton since landing in the Premier League in September 2022.

Although, De Zerbi has cast serious doubt over whether he will ditch Brighton for the Man Utd hot seat.

“I usually work to be happy and to enjoy and I feel very good in Brighton,” he said recently.

“I have a great relationship with the players, with the club, with Tony [Bloom, chairman], with Paul Barber [chief executive], with David Weir [technical director] and everybody who works in Brighton.

“Yes, we are speaking about the new contract but at the moment we are [only] speaking, it’s not done yet.”

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De Zerbi’s current deal runs until June 2026. By extending his contract to 2027 or beyond, Brighton will lessen the chance of him heading to Man Utd. They will also likely include a massive release clause in his fresh terms.

De Zerbi’s comments will have gotten Ratcliffe thinking about other potential managers who might be able to take charge of the team, should Ten Hag be sacked.

Julen Lopetegui eyeing Man Utd job – reports

Reports in Spain have ambitiously claimed that the job has been offered to Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, but top sources in England have not confirmed this. Zinedine Zidane is a coach who is admired, but he has publicly admitted he does not speak enough English to succeed in the Prem.

Instead, the Red Devils could end up bringing in Lopetegui as Ten Hag’s replacement. The Spaniard guided Wolves to 13th in the Prem last season but left shortly before the start of the new campaign due to their lack of transfer funds.

On November 15, reports in Spain revealed that Lopetegui had been approached by Saudi Arabian outfit Al Ittihad over their managerial vacancy. However, he rejected their advances as he is eager to join another Prem side next.

Fresh reports emerging from Lopetegui’s homeland have now confirmed that the 57-year-old is holding out for a job in England, with Man Utd the main one on his radar.

He feels he could have a great impact on the current crop of players, as well as using Man Utd’s big financial power to improve the quality of the starting eleven.

The report labels Al Ittihad’s offer to Lopetegui ‘scandalous’, as he would have picked up an astronomical amount of money. Instead, though, the former Spain and Real Madrid boss feels he has done enough to take over at an ‘important club’ next, given what he has achieved in his career. His biggest triumph came in 2019-20, when he guided Sevilla to the Europa League crown.

For Ten Hag, the next few weeks could be crucial in deciding his fate. Man Utd host Chelsea on Wednesday night before coming up against Bournemouth at the weekend. They will need to win both of those games if they are to start challenging for a top-four spot.

After that, Man Utd play Bayern Munich in their final Champions League group match, with a win essential if they are to advance to the knockout stages.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic twist, it has now been claimed that Jadon Sancho could remain at Man Utd, with Ratcliffe key to the situation.