Report reveals reasons why United ruled out eight candidates

Matt Stead
Mauricio Pochettino embraces Zinedine Zidane

Manchester United whittled an initial shortlist of eight managers down to just one in their search to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Erik ten Hag is expected to be appointed at Old Trafford after an extensive process, which included an explosive pair of interviews with the Dutchman.

But the club are said to have considered seven other candidates before deciding on the 52-year-old.

The candidacy of Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel were briefly examined but, as ESPN report, ‘it became clear almost instantly that neither would be a realistic target’.

Nagelsmann was said to be an ‘impossible’ target, while Tuchel only briefly seemed available due to uncertainty over Chelsea’s future.

Zinedine Zidane was a serious prospect until it was discovered that the only remaining club role the Frenchman would find appealing was Paris Saint-Germain.

Brendan Rodgers became a contender as Manchester United were ‘keen to assess the best domestic option,’ only for Leicester‘s drop in form around the winter to quickly discount him.

With Antonio Conte almost immediately ignored because ‘his demanding and detailed approach would not work’ with the squad, that left Old Trafford chiefs with a final four-man shortlist of Ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino, Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui.

Luis Enrique seemed the favourite at one stage but a source suggested “the World Cup killed them”. Lopetegeui, meanwhile, was contemplated ‘because of his tactical and technical abilities’ but ruled out on the basis that he could be “another Unai Emery” – an accomplished coach with ‘smaller clubs’, albeit one that lacks true success at the highest level.

Champions League semi-finalist with four European trophies, by the way.

That left Pochettino and Ten Hag in the running. The former was an attractive applicant, but Real Madrid’s likely summer interest in the Argentinean and the substantial compensation package required to extricate him from Paris Saint-Germain proved too much of an obstacle in the mind of the Manchester United hierarchy.

They found the ‘freshness’ of Ten Hag, unproven at the highest level but also not ‘tainted by failure’, to be the decisive factor.

Rio Ferdinand, however, fears the job could be too big, telling his Vibe with Five YouTube channel: “We’ve seen many managers now with far more experience, who have won much more than Ten Hag, bigger reputations, who have come in and been chewed up by this football club and spat out. And the players are still the same.

“So he has to find a way of getting in there and managing the characters, the personalities and the egos that are in there. And I know I sound like a broken record but the thing he has to do first is change the culture, bring the new culture and drive it. He has to do that, it’s a massive part of if he’s going to be successful.”