Football News

Next Man Utd manager? The three favourites if Ten Hag can’t turn things around

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:30, 1 May 2024

The job of Manchester United is perhaps the most challenging in world football.

Since legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013, the Red Devils have gone through four permanent head coaches before appointing Erik ten Hag ahead of the 2022/23 season.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and incumbent Ten Hag won two League Cups, a Europa League title, and an FA Cup trophy between them.

However, as Roy Keane once said, a one-game losing streak at the Old Trafford-based club is seen as a crisis. A humbling 3-0 loss to rivals and defending champions Manchester City was a milestone moment.

It was the 34th time United lost in England’s top division since Ferguson’s retirement. During his illustrious reign, Man Utd lost that same amount of games.

This has also been a season of unwanted records. For example, Man Utd hadn’t lost eight of the opening 15 games in a season since 1962, and five of their opening 10 games at Old Trafford since 1931, as well as conceding three or more goals in three consecutive games since 1978.

However, if the Dutchman does get the boot, who are the names in contention to be his successor?

NEXT PERMANENT MAN UTD MANAGER
Squawka
Team
Thomas Tuchel
Gareth Southgate
Graham Potter
Roberto De Zerbi
Zinedine Zidane

*Odds correct as of 13:30 on May 1

Thomas Tuchel

According to the bookmakers, the favourite candidate for the managerial position is Thomas Tuchel, who is soon to leave his position at Bayern Munich. Tuchel has the potential to become a two-time European Cup-winning coach. Even if he can’t guide Bayern to a seventh crown, he is expected to be in demand, as many teams are undergoing regime changes. Tuchel has experience coaching in the Premier League (with Chelsea) and has overseen giants such as PSG, Chelsea, and Bayern.

How they could line up

From a tactical perspective, Tuchel is a proponent of 4-2-3-1, though, at Stamford Bridge, we saw him utilise a back-three, with 3-4-2-1 being the formation of choice. He’ll be committed to one-striker in either system, with Rasmus Højlund expected to be that sole centre-forward. Going with the latter system, two deep-lying forwards will be positioned behind the Danish marksman, with Mason Mount (no stranger to playing under the German tactician) potentially alongside influential skipper Bruno Fernandes while Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw as wing-backs. Regarding who is likely to be sandwiched between United’s flankers, Kobbie Mainoo and Casemiro seem to be the choice of those currently available.

Gareth Southgate

A surprise name growing in popularity is current England boss Gareth Southgate, whose past relationship with incoming Man Utd sporting director Dan Ashworth could pay dividends.

He’ll interestingly become United’s first permanent English head coach since Ron Atkinson, whom Ferguson eventually succeeded in 1986. Southgate’s contract with the FA expires in December but could be accelerated if the Three Lions perform abjectly this summer.

How they could line up

The former Middlesbrough boss has overseen 93 matches with the England national team, yielding a 63.4% winning percentage. He’s also shown tactical flexibility by rotating between several formations, with 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 the most commonly used. Both are not alien to United’s current squad, with 4-3-3 being an interesting development, considering that Ten Hag dropped that lineup on six occasions since joining the club.

Here, two wingers (Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford) support Højlund, with Casemiro holding, Fernandes and Mainoo completing United’s midfield triumvirate.

Onana; Dalot, Maguire, Martínez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fernandes, Mainoo; Garnacho, Højlund, Rashford (4-3-3).

Graham Potter

With the exception of Van Gaal and Ten Hag, those who have followed Ferguson had Premier League experience. Before taking on another unenviable task as Chelsea manager Graham Potter was making a name for himself. His work at Östersund was rewarded with positions at Swansea City and Brighton & Hove Albion, during which he showed his strength as a modern manager. It ended painfully at Stamford Bridge and Potter is still unemployed but perhaps that brief period shouldn’t count against him (even though in the eyes of many fans, it definitely will).

How they could line up

Potter is another modern coach who drifted towards a back three but unlike Nagelsmann he opts for a front three. Jadon Sancho, currently frozen, is back from the cold to line up alongside Højlund and Rashford.

Roberto De Zerbi

Potter’s exit from Brighton felt seismic given the progress they were making. However, appointing Roberto De Zerbi has proven to be a masterstroke, with the Italian building on his good work and carrying them forward to another level. It hasn’t gone unnoticed with Pep Guardiola among his many admirers. His name has also been linked with the soon-to-be vacant Real Madrid job. De Zerbi obviously comes with Premier League experience if he ever succeeds Ten Hag and unlike the Dutchman, for now at least, he’s shown the capability of getting the best out of what’s in front of him.

How they could line up

There wouldn’t be a tactical overhaul with a hypothetical De Zerbi reign as he’s another 4-2-3-1 disciple. That leaves him seeking the right personnel to carry out his various on-field tasks. His current Brighton spell might give us some clues.

Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Eriksen; Fernandes, Mount, Rashford; Højlund (4-2-3-1).

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