The shortlist of potential successors to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager has decreased in number after one of their options committed to his current club.
Solskjaer has faced more pressure than ever before in the Man Utd hotseat in recent weeks. Between the October and November international breaks, their results included a 4-2 loss to Leicester, a 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool and a 2-0 derby defeat to Manchester City.
A win over Tottenham amidst all that kept Solskjaer afloat for now. But the weeks ahead will be crucial for the manager as he seeks to avoid further pressure.
The Man Utd hierarchy have continued to pledge their commitment to him. Although, some doubts have been creeping in since the Liverpool result in particular.
A report last week revealed Solskjaer has avoided the sack so far because there is no clear idea from the owners of who should replace him.
But an update followed, listing Erik Ten Hag of Ajax and Mauricio Pochettino of Paris Saint-Germain as options.
Both are currently in work, so would not be easy to acquire. However, they appeal for differing reasons. Ten Hag has inspired a successful era in Amsterdam, while Pochettino remains highly thought of after his previous stint in the Premier League.
Therefore, United could consider either of them. But they are set to face disappointment if they attempt to poach Ten Hag.
The 51-year-old has now distanced himself from other roles when asked what his next step after Ajax could be.
“I live in the present, so I find it hard to answer this,” he told ESPN.
“I always want to improve my team, and as long as I feel this motivation I want to keep going, if Ajax wants that too.”
He added: “I am happy at Ajax. I can work there in a good way.
“The conditions and the climate are good. Good management and very nice staff, and not to forget I have a very good group of players, which is also flexible.”
His comments back up previous reports of his commitment to his current club.
Ten Hag has been in charge of Ajax since 2017. During that time, he has led them to two Eredivisie titles. Reaching the Champions League semi-final in 2019 was also a memorable achievement.
Consequently, he is well thought of in England, where many clubs have been linked with him. But it seems he is happy to stay in the Netherlands for now.
His contract with Ajax runs until 2023. Solskjaer, meanwhile, is tied to Man Utd until 2024 – and his job may be safe for the foreseeable future unless another obvious candidate to replace him emerges.
Zidane makes Man Utd decision
Another manager to be linked with the potential Man Utd vacancy is Zinedine Zidane. He had two spells in charge of Real Madrid but is currently out of work.
Three times a Champions League winner as a coach, it would be interesting to see how Zidane can do outside of Madrid.
He has been mentioned in connection with Man Utd but there are doubts over his willingness to take on the role.
And an update from Fabrizio Romano has confirmed that Zidane would not be likely to take over Man Utd at present.
The trustworthy reporter revealed that United have not entered any talks with the Frenchman. Furthermore, he would be unwilling to take on the job mid-season.
If the question was asked in the summer, it may be a different story. But Zidane would want a full pre-season to prepare with any group he inherits.
Zidane is also thinking about the France job if that becomes available.
For Man Utd, though, it will be a waiting game even if they decide to change their minds about Solskjaer’s long-term status.