Erik ten Hag is still facing the sack at Manchester United despite scraping a 1-0 victory over Luton Town on Saturday, with a legendary Liverpool man naming another Premier League boss as his “blindingly obvious” replacement.
The Dutchman oversaw an excellent first season at the helm, helping Manchester United to Carabao Cup success, the FA Cup final and a top-three finish in the Premier League, which crucially brought Champions League football back to Old Trafford.
However, little has gone right for Ten Hag this season with the club undergoing their worst start to a season in 51 years. And having already suffered nine defeats in their opening 18 matches – their worst run of form at the start of a campaign since 1962/63 – speculation on Ten Hag’s future has began to uncomfortably swirl.
Indeed, our exclusive revealed, somewhat painfully for Ten Hag, that a number of senior United stars were starting to question the Dutchman’s tactics, subtitutions and transfers – a line which was very quickly picked up and jumped upon in a number of national papers.
Since then, United have won two Premier League games against Fulham and Luton – matches they would have been expected to triumph in, but only by 1-0 scorelines each time.
Crucially, in between which, they suffered the ignominy of a 4-3 Champions League defeat to FC Copenhagen, despite having twice led in the game. That means they have now lost three of their opening four games in the competition, with another defeat on matchday five, away at Galatasaray, meaning they will exit the tournament at the first hurdle.
Ten Hag, for his part, continues to fight on. He has called on his players to show togetherness and a willingess to fight.
Ten Hag tipped for Man Utd sack with woeful transfers blamed
Crucially for Ten Hag, he does still seem to have the support of Sir Alex Ferguson, who still holds a major sway at Old Trafford.
However, rumours that he is battling to save his job are refusing to go away, with results clearly way below the expected level at Manchester United.
As a result, a report last week claimed a former Premier League boss was waiting in the wings to take over at Man Utd as soon as Ten Hag fell on his sword.
That claim has since looked wide of the mark, though Ten Hag continues to be under the highest scrutiny.
Furthermore, former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler is adamant the axe will soon fall and has blasted Ten Hag for a number of woeful transfer decisions.
Fowler wrote in his Daily Mirror column: “The recruitment has been woeful, and the fact is, Ten Hag has to take a lot of blame for that. They’ve gone for the experienced campaigners – just as they did with managers like [Jose] Mourinho – and it didn’t work. Casemiro anyone?
“Can someone explain to me how you can pay £70m for a midfielder who was almost 31, when the selling club Real Madrid thought his legs had gone?
“Then they veer to the other route, and try to follow the likes of City and Liverpool by signing younger players… but without the quality. Antony at £89m is unfathomable, and there have been plenty more that don’t make sense.
”Ten Hag has clearly been involved in many of those deals, because the signings have direct links to his previous club Ajax. And yet, we’ve witnessed a full strength United side lose to Copenhagen in the Champions League. That simply shouldn’t happen.”
Liverpool icon names perfect next Man Utd manager is named
Reflecting on Saturday’s narrow win over Luton, courtesy of Victor Lindelof’s strike, Fowler continued: “I honestly felt that was probably the final straw, and it doesn’t matter what happened against Luton on Saturday. I think that result, and the prospect of not qualifying for the Champions League knock out, could mean the end of him.
“I know there was a red card [for Marcus Rashford], but even so, defeat there even with 10 men is unthinkable. In the league they’ve been equally unconvincing, despite a few scrappy results lately.”
Fowler reckons United will need to consider his replacement extremely carefully.
However, he reckons there are a number of potential candidates out there, with one current Premier League boss really catching the attention.
“They can’t run the risk of going down the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer route again, even though I think the likes of Michael Carrick and Keiron McKenna have some credentials and obvious Old Trafford connections. They’re just not ready yet though,” Fowler added.
”At the same time, the type of candidate they need, a manager with a proven track record over a long period at the top level, is not going to walk away from a big job to join United. Pep Guardiola won’t and neither will Jurgen Klopp. Carlo Ancelotti fits the bill, but he is going to walk away from Madrid to join them? Is he hell.
Zerbi tipped for Manchester United job
“So it will have to be a younger manager with a good track record who can step up to the next level,” Fowler continued.
“I think Unai Emery has that, and he’s doing a decent job at Villa after winning several European trophies. But the blindingly obvious one is Roberto de Zerbi. Many thought it would all collapse this season at Brighton after they lost their two biggest players, and virtually his entire midfield. But if anything, he’s consolidated the club.”
De Zerbi has done an incredible job since succeeding Graham Potter at the AMEX, and currently boasts a 46.43 win percentage record
Ten Hag, by contrast, currently has a 62.5 win percentage, having won 50 of his 80 matches at the helm. Twenty-one of those have been defeats though, with nine coming this season.