Five reasons Sir Jim Ratcliffe shouldn’t sack Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag

Will Ford
Ten Hag Ratcliffe Man Utd
Erik ten Hag is hoping to convince Sir Jim Ratcliffe he should remain in charge at Man Utd,

Most Manchester United fans have had enough of Erik ten Hag and want the new dawn under Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS to include a new manager.

The pressure has increased a couple of notches after the 4-3 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but reports suggest Ratcliffe would still ideally like to keep the Dutchman, and we’ve come up with five reasons why he should…

 

Uninspiring alternatives
While Liverpool are now linked with Ruben Amorim and Roberto De Zerbi having been snubbed by Xabi Alonso, all managers deemed to be tactical geniuses of their generation, Manchester United appear to have been scouring soho coffee shops for latte-sipping, company men who look good in a suit and won’t rock the INEOS boat to replace Ten Hag at Old Trafford.

The only surprise on the back of reports of interest in Graham Potter, Gareth Southgate and Gary O’Neil is that Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s apparent obsession with hiring obediant English sycophants is yet to lead him to Eddie Howe, despite what we assume is as exemplary a LinkedIn page as the other candidates.

Changing the job title from ‘manager’ to ‘head coach’ is a very good indication of the shift in control that’s coming under the new owners next season, with everything other than what happens in training and on matchdays no longer under the purview of whoever that happens to be.

At least Ten Hag, after two years at the helm and possibly two domestic trophies under his belt, would have some power with which to push back against what looks set to be Ratcliffe’s autocratic regime.

 

Injury woes
Other teams have had worse injury problems, but few – if any – have been hit so badly and so frequently in one specific area of their squad.

£55m summer signing Mason Mount barely playing hasn’t been great, and others in midfield and attack have had the odd niggle, but it’s the problems in defence that have provided game-by-game headaches for Ten Hag.

They’ve already conceded more goals this season (44) than last (43) when only Manchester City and Newcastle had a better defensive record, and that’s far fewer than they should have conceded according to xG, with their goals against minus expected goals against score of -10.7 comfortably the lowest in the Premier League.

They’ve also faced more shots in the Premier League this year (225) than any other team; nearly twice as many as Crystal Palace. Hang on though, this is why Ten Hag shouldn’t be sacked.

The Dutchman’s preferred back four from last season of Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw have started just one Premier League game together this term, the win over Wolves at the start of February.

Tyrell Malacia aside, who’s missed the whole season, the United defenders have been absent for 67 Premier League games between them through injury. That’s an extraordinary amount, and the spread and regularity of those problems also means there’s very rarely been consistent selection from one game to the next.

 

Off-field distractions
Jadon Sancho throwing a strop and Marcus Rashford’s various benders pale in comparison in the distraction stakes to the cycling bloke’s ‘strategic review’ of the club.

With the darn media claiming Ten Hag was ‘basically an interim manager’ from the point it started, it’s hard to imagine a more pressurised environment for a man already in one of the most pressurised jobs in world football to operate in.

There wasn’t really an alternative: the review was necessary and they’ve already made great strides to establish a much-needed structure above the manager (or head coach), and though reports suggest they want to keep Ten Hag, they couldn’t go so far as to guarantee him the job next season.

They could though have avoided what we have to assume were purposefully leaks of interest in Southgate and other alternatives with the primary aim of gauging the fans’ response, when we all could have told them it would be luke warm at best without them further ramping up the stress on their current boss.

 

Faith in youth
Looking at Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo now it’s easy to dismiss Ten Hag’s role in their rise to become arguably the two best players in the Manchester United team with claims that they are simply too good for any manager to have ignored, or that their introductions to the first team were forced rather than by design as a result of their competition for a place being so entirely rubbish.

But Ten Hag’s faith in the youth was also a huge part of his success at Ajax, where Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek among others thrived under his stewardship, and there are plenty of managers who value fast transfer fixes over academy graduates.

With Jason Wilcox arriving as technical director with a view to building the Red Devils academy back up to a point where it can compete with the Manchester City equivalent that he played a huge part in nurturing, young stars recognising that there is a path to the first team will be crucial to that development.

Man Utd midfielder Kobbie Mainoo
Kobbie Mainoo moves past Wataru Endo against Liverpool.

 

The sack would be costly
The Athletic claim that ‘ideally, those in the INEO regime do not want to rip it up and start again’. They believe ‘the changes going on above him’ – Omar Berrada as CEO, Dan Ashworth as sporting director and Wilcox as technical director – are ‘enough for one summer’.

That’s presumably in part because some sort of stability, given there is also likely to be significant changes among the playing staff, is seen as a good thing for the smooth running of the football club, but money is perhaps more the key to their stance.

Newcastle want £20m in compensation for Ashworth, Southampton reportedly baulked at the offer of a year’s salary for Wilcox and will ask for far more, and Ten Hag and his staff will have to be paid several millions of pounds if they’re to leave the club this summer, while hiring a replacement – should they be in work – is also a consideration given both the implications of profit and sustainability rules and their hopes of revamping the squad.