Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ten Hag sack: Man Utd boss told it’s all over as ‘outsized ambitions’ see Ratcliffe zone in on four-time Champions League winning upgrade

Zinedine Zidane could replace Erik ten Hag as Manchester United manager

Zinedine Zidane could replace Erik ten Hag at Manchester United

Manchester United will have no hestitation in sacking Erik ten Hag this summer, according to an iconic former player, who believes Sir Jim Ratcliffe will quickly cast his verdict on the Dutchman and amid reports that an ambitious move for Zinedine Zidane is set to be launched.

The Red Devils have been dogged by inconsistency all season with all the early promise from Ten Hag’s first season in charge quickly evaporating this. Having crashed out the Champions League suffering an embarrassing four defeats from their six games, Manchester United have also already lost 10 times in the Premier League this season, making this their worst season on record since 1930/31.

Understandably, that has seen the pressure cranked up on Ten Hag who at least needs to win the FA Cup this season or, ideally, finish in the top four of the Premier League to potentially avoid an early end to his reign.

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But with defeat to Fulham on Saturday at Old Trafford, United now find themselves a distant and concerning eight points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa and with little margin for error in the quest to overhaul Unai Emery’s side and return to the Champions League.

Indeed, many expect a failure to seal a top-four place could well spell curtains for the Dutchman, who has appeared to stumble from one crisis to another throughout his second season at the helm.

And with ambitious minority shareholder Ratcliffe recently completing his £1.4bn investment into 27.7% of the club, the British billionaire is expected to leave no stone unturned in his quest to re-establish United as a leading side in English and European football.

Ten Hag told he can expect Man Utd sack

That’s the verdict of Rio Ferdinand, who like his former Man Utd teammate Gary Neville, feels Ten Hag is effectively on trial between now and the end of the season.

With his job at Old Trafford effectively on the line, Ferdinand has outlined the exact factors that could lead to the 54-year-old getting the boot.

He said on his FIVE YouTube show: “If he runs it close [to finishing in top four], if they see an upturn in form and the environment at the training ground and can see something where ‘we can see what it looks like going into next season if we add the right pieces to it’… a lot of moving parts have to fall into place for him to stay.

“If they don’t finish the season well, they’re losing games and it looks like the dressing room isn’t a harmonious place, one thing I would say is I don’t think Jim Ratcliffe and his team are shy of making big decisions.

“It won’t be a big thing for them if they had to [sack him]. I don’t think they look at it and go ‘We’ve got to work out the media and PR’. No, no. What’s right for Man United now? We’ll do.”

United put in a disjointed defensive display as Fulham deservedly claimed a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday and Ferdinand believes those players outside United’s regular starting XI don’t look capable of doing a job, largely owing to the club’s lack of identity.

“If you coach a team, you’re not just coaching 11 – it’s everyone in the squad,” Ferdinand added.

“So when they come in, they should all have their roles and responsibilities to be able to implement a certain way of playing.”

Man Utd ‘lack an idenity under Ten Hag’

Ferdinand continued: “Man United just don’t have a style of play at the moment, where you go ‘that is them’.

“Look at all the best teams, you know how they play. [Manchester] City, [Ange] Postecoglou-– you know how his team is going to play. [Mikel] Arteta – you know how his team is going to play.”

Ten Hag has won 59 of his 98 matches in charge, but it is the number of defeats that leave his position looking perilous.

Earlier in the week, another pundit in Gabby Agbonlahor described Ten Hag as ‘delusional’ if he genuinely believed United had the qualities needed to finish in the top four.

Speaking to talkSPORT while analysing their performance against Marco Silva’s side, the former Villa striker claimed: “Have you ever heard someone more delusional? When a manager is delusional like Ten Hag is sounding now, it is time to move him on.

“Come out and be honest, your team were dreadful. Every player through the whole 90 minutes. Eighth home defeat this season. ‘The team showed character to grab the equaliser.’ You winding me up?”

Agbonlahor added: “United have been getting away with bad performances and still somehow winning games, but today they got exactly what they deserved. Manchester United today were a disgrace to that football club.”

Ratcliffe bidding for Zinedine Zidane appointment

With pressure building on Ten Hag, it’s reported that Ratcliffe, alongside incoming new sporting director Dan Ashworth, have drawn up a list of would-be successors to the Dutchman.

The likes of Julen Lopetegui, Graham Potter and Ruben Amorim are among those on that list, though the trio perhaps lack the wow factor needed to take on one of the world’s most high-pressured jobs.

However, that could be all about to change and amid claims that another reported incoming director appointment at United – INEOS chief Jean-Claude Blanc – has already set his sights on the appointment of Zidane as his replacement.

The Frenchman is regarded as not just one of the greatest players of all-time, having won a multitude of honours during his playing days, but also as one of the finest coaches of the last 25 years – an all-too-rare combination not often seen in the modern game.

Zidane has won the Champions League three times as a manager and once as a player, and according to reports, Blanc is a great admirer and close associate of his.

That aim – described as a ‘oversized ambition’ of both Ratcliffe and Blanc by Foot Mercato journalist Santi Aouna – will reportedly see an approach for the 51-year-old made in the coming weeks.

Ratcliffe’s apparent ‘lack of support’ for Ten Hag is noted by Aouna, who claims INEOS are ‘working behind the scenes on the recruitment of a new major coach’.

That news comes in the week that Zidane himself has touted himself back in the job market and keen to make his return to football, having ‘waiting on the right project to get back on track’.

His former club Juventus have been touted for a move as a successor to Max Allegri, while Bayern Munich – seeking a successor to Thomas Tuchel – are also being touted.

Zidane himself was quoted as saying about a return to management: “Why not? Anything can happen. Now I’m doing other things, but we’ll see – I’d certainly like to return to the bench.”

Whether that ends up being at United remains to be seen, but if the latest reports are accurate, then the imminent appointment of Blanc at Old Trafford could well give Ratcliffe a key advantage over their rivals for the iconic Frenchman.

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