Ten Hag backed like Brendan but is Man Utd’s Jurgen Klopp coming in October?

Sarah Winterburn
Erik ten Hag and Brendan Rodgers
Erik ten Hag and Brendan Rodgers

For any Manchester United manager to survive a drop from third to eighth seems preposterous. The truth is that a manager of any historically successful, ambitious club surviving a drop from third to eighth is unprecedented in the modern era.

George Graham was sacked long before his Arsenal title winners had slumped to a mid-table finish within two years, Jose Mourinho was dumped before Christmas as his Chelsea title winners descended into mediocrity, while Thomas Tuchel did not even see the first international break after a third-place finish. Hell, Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in a tunnel for finishing second.

At Liverpool, Rafa Benitez was mutually consented a week after finishing seventh, while Manchester United repeated the Chelsea trick with Mourinho (without the title win) before pulling the trigger even earlier with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Perhaps the closest in precedence is Brendan Rodgers, who survived the drop from Liverpool as title contenders to sixth place – with some humiliating defeats along the way – but was given some leeway because he had lost Luis Suarez and was only partially responsible for the transfer clusterf*** that followed.

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There was a clamour for change from Liverpool fans who had watched their side accumulate 22 fewer points, score barely half as many goals and pick up only five of a possible 24 points against the top four.

In terms of comparison with this Manchester United side, Rodgers’ Liverpool picked up 62 points to Ten Hag’s 60, but the drop from season to season was more stark. Rodgers was very lucky to avoid scrutiny as FSG reviewed the season, with the man himself – by this juncture a figure of fun – saying: “I’ve always said if the owners want me to go, I go. It’s as simple as that.”

It’s curious that he thought he had a choice, but that was Brendan.

And this is Ten Hag, who has faced far more scrutiny from INEOS than Rodgers faced from FSG, but has also emerged with his job intact. For now. If Rodgers is the closest we have to a precedent then that does not augur well for Ten Hag; he was sacked early in October 2015 with the Reds in 10th. Nobody would be particularly surprised to see Ten Hag suffer the same fate.

The good news for Manchester United fans disgruntled that their owners have spent several weeks scrolling through Tinder only to stick with their flawed partner, is that the next stage for Liverpool featured a beautiful wedding to a long-term, loving partner in Jurgen Klopp. Perhaps United will find eventually find their legacy manager, though that legacy manager being Gareth Southgate is a theory that rankles with many.

Whether Ten Hag merited another turn around the dancefloor is now a moot point, but the truth is that with the fanbase so split – and presumably INEOS themselves split – Ten Hag will have to start next season like a train to avoid the fate of Rodgers.

If any Manchester United manager surviving a drop from third to eighth seems preposterous, keeping him beyond October without a seismic improvement would be pure negligence. Over to you Erik (and Jason, Omar and eventually Dan).

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