The long-term future of embattled Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag continues to be the subject of frenzied speculation.

It would shock no-one if the Dutchman was sacked tomorrow, or any day sooner rather than later. There is an inevitability about his fate. Equally, there are plausible reasons for giving the United boss a stay of execution.

Equally, there are plausible reasons for giving the United boss a stay of execution.

He is staying because…

The small matter of the evolving ownership regime at Old Trafford could be the reason Ten Hag remains in charge longer than some expect.

There is a school of thought that strategies for solving the calamities on the pitch and the appointment of relevant sporting personnel may have to wait until Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25% stake in the club is finalised and ratified.

Also militating against the decision to sack Ten Hag is the club’s fear of where to go next. There is a dearth of suitably qualified candidates for the high profile Old Trafford job, especially mid season.

The next Man United manager will almost certainly be another gamble, unless the club can lure a proven hand in the mould of Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

Name of Manager Club Age Odds
Steve Cooper Nottingham Forest 43 2/1
Erik Ten Hag Manchester United 53 2/1
Vincent Kompany Burnley 37 7/1
Roy Hodgson Crystal Palace 76 8/1
Andoni Iraola AFC Bournemouth 41 14/1
Chris Wilder Sheffield United 55 16/1
Marco Silva Fulham 46 20/1
Rob Edwards Luton Town 40 20/1
Mauricio Pochettino Chelsea 51 25/1

Roberto De Zerbi is one of the names being bandied about. The Italian has done exceedingly well at Brighton, but his appointment would represent potential rather than guaranteed success, akin to the risk Chelsea took on Graham Potter.

Another reason why Ten Hag may also be given more time is because the club desperately craves stability and continuity. The very idea of appointing a sixth substantive manager in the decade since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement is unthinkable, loathsome even.

Ten Hag could well stay on by dint of his own performance. He can turn the club’s fortunes around. To suggest he doesn’t have the tactical wherewithal to do so is to dismiss last season’s third-placed finish and the Carabao Cup success as mere flukes. They were not.


Ten Hag inherited a severely broken squad and deserves credit for the way he has gone about trying to fix it.

The Dutchman earned a lot of praise for purging the squad of decisive and disruptive characters, the so-called rotten apples and those players who didn’t quite fit into his philosophy. He also won plenty of admirers for his handling of the Cristiano Ronaldo situation by asserting his authority as the manager and sending the message to the rest of the squad that no player is bigger than the club.

The former Ajax boss is also a stickler for discipline as Alejandro Garnacho found out on the club’s Asian tour. Like Garnacho, Marcus Rashford would also discover the price of tardiness. The striker, on a hot goal-scoring streak at the time, was dropped for arriving late for a team meeting after he overslept.

Player mutiny

Successive managerial regimes have been plagued by rumours of player unrest, prompting Gary Neville to liken the Man United dressing room to a garden invaded by harmful weeds of the “Japanese knotweed” variety.

There have been suggestions in recent days that Ten Hag is presiding over a mutinous dressing room disillusioned by his style, including his treatment of Jadon Sancho, who has been exiled from the first-team squad.

However, media claims that the manager has lost the dressing room have been aggressively knocked back by the club, with Scott McTominay going as far as suggesting that the dressing room is actually the happiest it has been, arguably since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

He will be sacked because…

United are having a wretched campaign. And as is par for the course in the industry, the manager carries the can for poor results.

Defeats in the manner suffered at the hands of Bournemouth on Saturday do not help the manager’s cause. The indignity of being beaten so comprehensively on their own hallowed Old Trafford patch, the embarrassment of it all, is an affront to the legacies of Sir Matt Busby, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson.

A club of Manchester United’s stature with a storied history has no business having a negative goal difference after 16 Premier League games. The Red Devils have no business sitting last in a Champions League group involving Galatasaray and Copenhagen and facing elimination.

After an encouraging first season in charge, Ten Hag’s United appears to be going backwards this term, with no distinctive style of play. They are a team without an identity.

The incumbent manager has a lot to atone for, and with Liverpool on the horizon, things could get worse before they get better.

Date Competition Match Score Run
12th Dec UEFA Champions League Manchester United vs Bayern Munich 0-1 Loss
9th Dec Premier League Manchester United vs Bournemouth 0-3 Loss
6th Dec Premier League Manchester United vs Chelsea 2-1 Win
2nd Dec Premier League Newcastle United vs Manchester United 1-0 Loss

The blame game

The Glazers are routinely depicted as the villains of the piece, to a significant extent with good reason. They may not win the popularity contest, but for all their sins United’s much-maligned owners have always backed their managers in the transfer market. United are consistently among the biggest spenders in the transfer market and up there with the clubs with the biggest wage bills in the Premier League.

Ranking the Premier League clubs by their transfer net spend in 2023

Rank Club Net Spend (€) Most Expensive Signing Biggest Sale
1 Chelsea €515.3m Enzo Fernandez (€121m) Kai Havertz (€75m)
2 Arsenal €227.34M Declan Rice (€116.6m) Folarin Balogun (€30m)
3 Bournemouth €182.39M Tyler Adams (€26.9M) Ben Pearson (€1.5m)
4 Manchester United €154.32m Ramus Hojlund (€75m) Anthony Elanga/Dean Henderson (€17.5m)
5 Liverpool €153.3m Dominik Szoboszlai (€70m) Fabinho (€46.7m)
6 Newcastle United €146.79m Sandro Tonali (€64m) Allan Saint-Maximin (€27.2m)
7 Manchester City €135.6m Josko Gvardiol (€90m) Cole Palmer (€47m)
8 Tottenham €134.4m Brennan Johnson (€55m) Harry Kane (€100m)
9 Burnley €123.44m Zeki Amdouni (€18.6m) Bobby Thomas (€2.3m)
10 Nottingham Forest €90.53m Ibrahim Sangare (€35m) Brennan Johnson (€55m)

It is fair to say the owners have not had a decent return on their investment. We can also safely say without fear of contradiction that the Glazers, unloved by their fans, are also conveniently scapegoated for poor results on the pitch.

It remains to be seen whether Ten Hag will be given more time to rehabilitate Manchester United’s season and his own reputation.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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