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Ten Hag to stay as Man United manager

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Erik ten Hag will stay as Manchester United manager after the club’s end-of-season review culminated in a decision to keep the Dutchman — and he has agreed to remain at Old Trafford.

Following a period of major uncertainty over Ten Hag’s future, United held talks with the 54-year-old on Tuesday and the preference of both parties was for his tenure to continue.

Ten Hag’s existing United contract runs until next June, with an option to prolong by 12 months, and they will now enter negotiations about extending those terms.

After winning the FA Cup last month, defeating Manchester City 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, The Athletic reported that the club were due to conduct a review of the 2023-24 campaign — including the performance of Ten Hag.

In case a change in the dugout was to be made, United had sounded out potential replacements including ex-Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel, former Brighton & Hove Albion head coach Roberto De Zerbi, recently departed Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino, Brentford head coach Thomas Frank and Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna.

But at the end of a process led by United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford, the choice was made to move forward with Ten Hag.


The decision has been made for Ten Hag to stay (Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The build-up to the FA Cup final was largely overshadowed by speculation about his position, with the manager admitting afterwards that he “didn’t know” if it was his last match in charge off the back of what he called a “rubbish” campaign.

United recorded their lowest finishing position of the Premier League era (eighth) with their points total of 60 only two better than their worst tally since the competition began in 1992. Their goal difference of minus-one was the wrong side of zero for the first time in 34 years.

They also exited the Champions League in the group stage — finishing bottom of the group — and went out of the EFL Cup in the fourth round before victory at Wembley ensured they avoided missing out on European football altogether.

After INEOS’ minority investment in the club was confirmed in February, Ratcliffe emphasised the importance of having to “walk to the right solution, not run to the wrong one”.

The new football operations hierarchy have already made a number of changes to the footballing structure at Old Trafford with Omar Berrada of Manchester City set to arrive as the club’s new chief executive in July.

They also look set to bring in Dan Ashworth from Newcastle United as their new sporting director, while they have recruited Jason Wilcox as the club’s technical director.

The FA Cup was a second trophy in as many seasons for Ten Hag since being appointed as United’s manager in 2022.

In his first season, Ten Hag finished third in the Premier League and won the EFL Cup, while United also reached the FA Cup final, where they were beaten by City.

“Two trophies in two years is not bad, three finals in two years is not bad,” he said. “If they don’t want me, then I go somewhere else to win trophies because that is what I do.”

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GO DEEPER

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What the numbers say

By Duncan Alexander

2023-24 was a record-setting season for United under Ten Hag but not for the reasons he wanted. A final position of eighth is the lowest the club have finished since 1989-90, and it is the first time United have ended a campaign with a negative goal difference since then too. For context, United’s average goal difference in their 21 Premier League campaigns under Sir Alex Ferguson was +44.

Many of the team’s issues were defensive ones. 58 goals conceded is the most in a league season since 1978-79, while only David Moyes’ West Ham and the three relegated sides conceded more expected goals than United did. They even managed to outstrip the Derby County team from 2007-08 for shots conceded. In case you’ve forgotten, Derby won only one match that season and were relegated with a record-low points total of 11.

United finished bottom of their Champions League group, and their total of 15 goals conceded is the most a Premier League side has ever let in at that stage of the competition.

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Manchester United’s season in numbers: The good, the bad and the ugly

Ten Hag’s attack struggled at various points too — a 2-0 defeat at West Ham in December was the first time the club had failed to score in four successive games in all competitions since 1992.

And still the records kept coming. In February Fulham’s Alex Iwobi scored the latest winning goal by an away team at Old Trafford in Premier League history, while in April United were leading in the 100th minute away at Chelsea but still contrived to lose the game 4-3. They ended the season with nine defeats in all competitions at Old Trafford, something that hadn’t happened since 1973-74 — the last season they suffered relegation from the top-flight.

‘A remarkable turnaround’

Analysis from Mark Critchley

As unlikely as it may have seemed on the morning of the FA Cup final, Ten Hag will still be in the Old Trafford dugout next season. That is not merely because of United’s victory at Wembley, although that doubtless helped his cause.

The United hierarchy spent their end-of-season review balancing that unlikely win over Manchester City and a second trophy in as many years against a largely miserable campaign, which ended in the club’s lowest finish of the Premier League era.


Ten Hag will now enter negotiations over a new contract (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

As bad as finishing eighth was after a group stage exit from the Champions League, there were also mitigating factors in Ten Hag’s favour, most notably a torrid, relentless injury crisis which undoubtedly affected results.

United held talks with several potential successors in case a change was deemed necessary, but now the only negotiations are to extend Ten Hag’s contract. It is a remarkable turnaround, that even Ten Hag himself may have struggled see coming a little more than a fortnight ago.

(Top photo: Michael Regan – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

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