Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag may be a man under enormous pressure but at least he can live with the knowledge that the man tipped as the favourite to replace him at the Old Trafford is not thinking about leaving his current job any time soon.
The Red Devils have lost a woefully-poor 10 of their 21 matches played this season to leave Ten Hag in growing danger of the sack. Little has gone right for the Dutchman over the course of the 2023/24 season, with Manchester United appearing to lurch from one crisis to another.
With a crucial, somewhat defining week on the horizon, Ten Hag now finds himself in a position whereby he urgently needs three positive results. And while wins against Chelsea (Wednesday night) and Bournemouth (on Saturday) would help in their quest to close the gap on the top four, a win in their match after that, against Bayern Munich, might not even be enough to help United progress in Europe.
Indeed, it is the club’s Champions League form that has been the biggest cause for alarm. In their five games to date, United have just one win, one draw and three defeats. Worse yet, they have conceded a seriously poor 14 goals.
And even if they do manage to see off Thomas Tuchel’s impressive Bayern side – and surely the German champions will start as favourites – a win for either FC Copenhagen or Galatasaray in the other game will see United dumped out regardless.
The gloom doesn’t stop there for Ten Hag, with amid reports Ten Hag has lost the faith of half his senior players, who have grown tired of his old school tactics and training methods.
Man Utd target De Zerbi stresses loyalty to Brighton
As a result, a growing school of thought claims Ten Hag will soon be axed.
And with incoming new investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to be granted a major say in the way the club is run, it’s reported Ratcliffe has earmarked Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi as his preferred candidate to step into the United hotseat.
The Italian has done a hugely-impressive job since his appointment at the AMEX, inheriting a squad well-rounded by predecessor Graham Potter, but making them a thoroughly better team.
Having led the club to a sixth-placed finish last season, Brighton secured Europa League football, with the Seagulls already securing their place, alongside Marseille, in the next round.
The job De Zerbi has done as a result has seen him attract plenty of admirers, with Real Madrid also viewing the 44-year-old as a potential successor to Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu.
Despite links to two of the biggest jobs in world football, De Zerbi is adamant he has no plans to leave the south coast any time soon and has, in fact, confirmed his plans to discuss a new deal by way of showing that commitment.
“I usually work to be happy and to enjoy and I feel very good in Brighton,” said the former Shakhtar Donetsk boss, whose current contract runs until 2026.
“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.”
Man Utd may need to look elsewhere as Ten Hag sack prediction is made
Brighton are one of the best run clubs around and they have indicated they would not stand in De Zerbi’s way were he to ask to leave.
However, despite having a possible succession plan in mind and with De Zerbi on the radar of other clubs, the Italian insists he does not plan on leaving his current role any time soon.
Underlining his loyalty to the Seagulls, he continued: “At the end we have to analyse the target. If the targets are the same as the club’s, it’s an honour for me working in Brighton. I don’t try to reach the higher level.
“Most important for me is working seriously, with a good team, good players. It’s important for me to fix an important target.”
With De Zerbi seemingly taking himself out the running, United may need to look elsewhere for a new manager were they to part with Ten Hag.
Despite claims Ratcliffe will quickly call time on the Dutchman’s reign once the British businessman takes charge, Robbie Savage does not think the axe will fall any time soon, explaining he thinks United will need to appoint a sporting director first before they decide the fate of their manager.
“I don’t think anything can happen in terms of the management structure whilst there is still speculation around Sir Jim Ratcliffe going into Manchester United,” Savage said. “A decision can’t be made until they get a new sporting director in who can then decide on a process.”
He added: “I don’t think the club can make any decisions about the manager until the structure of the club is in place. Getting a new sporting director in is fundamental, then a decision will have to be made.
“But Manchester United have to win football matches and the main thing for me at the moment is the body language. There is a lethargy within the team at the moment.”