Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hinted that Manchester United managerial target Erik ten Hag could be the one to replace him Etihad Stadium.
The 52-year-old Ajax boss has been heavily linked with the impending vacant Old Trafford hotseat. Ten Hag’s present deal with the record Dutch champions expires in June 2023, but he could soon be facing his former Bayern Munich colleague.
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During a three-year spell in Bavaria, the pair worked together; Guardiola served as Bayern’s first-team coach while Ten Hag oversaw their reserve squad. Both subsequently went their separate ways, the Dutchman succeeding Marcel Keizer in the Dutch capital, an appointment that has paid dividends (two Eredivisie titles, two KNVB Cups and a famous semi-final finish in the 2018/19 Champions League).
Guardiola was asked by reporters whether Ten Hag could repeat his successes at Ajax in English football if he became the next Man United manager, to which he responded: “If I was 100%, I would call Manchester United and tell them: ‘Guys, you have to take him.’
“But nobody knows. When I arrived here I didn’t know. He’s a good manager, there is no doubt. But there were good managers there in the past since Sir Alex [Ferguson] left. You cannot say that David Moyes is not a good manager or Louis van Gaal or José Mourinho. I think all the managers that have been at United have been excellent.”
Guardiola’s contract with City expires after next summer and he is expected to decide whether to extend his contract this summer.
“Could Erik ten Hag be here at City? Definitely. I think he could be the one,” Guardiola added. “For the way he approaches the game. I will say to [Man City director of football] Txiki [Begiristain] now.”
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If he does move from Amsterdam to Manchester following this season, Ten Hag would become Man United’s fifth permanent manager since legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down. In this post-Fergie period they’ve struggled, accumulating just three major trophies and no Premier League title across nine campaigns, and there’s a strong chance of them missing out on Champions League football next season.
Europe’s premier club competition has been where Ten Hag has really written his name. He famously guided Ajax to within minutes of reaching an improbable final and before a shock elimination at the hands of Benfica last month they were looking strong to enjoy another run. As big as a disappointment that was, De Godenzonen are still on course to winning a third Eredivisie and KNVB Beker ‘double’ under his leadership.
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As things currently stand, Ajax face title rivals PSV Eindhoven in an upcoming cup final, while they currently lead the championship by four points with six matches remaining. Those final Eredivisie games might not be Ten Hag’s last; when asked about the Old Trafford job he coyly replied: “My focus is currently only on Ajax, but in football you never know,” before adding: “Everyone knows each other in the industry. There are always talks with representatives from other clubs – that’s normal.”
Things couldn’t be anymore different with Man United, who are being led by interim head coach Ralf Rangnick before he moves upstairs. The 20-time English champions will go another season trophyless and find themselves three points behind fourth-place Arsenal, who occupy the coveted final automatic Champions League qualification spot, but have played two games more than Mikel Arteta’s men.