Man Utd fans must lower expectations and forget about Europe or blockbuster transfers to give next manager a chance

THE COUNTDOWN continues on when Manchester United name the next new manager.

There are just nine games left of a campaign that most Old Trafford fans will likely look back on as the most miserable yet since Fergie called time on his legendary career nine years ago.

Ten Hag is the favourite to be appointed Man Utd managerCredit: Getty

Of course there will be new optimism when the next man does come in and the favourite to do so is Erik ten Hag.

There has always been such hope since David Moyes took over in the summer of 2013.

And for sure Ten Hag knows how to build a team and he knows how to make it tick as he has proved with Ajax after learning at the feet of Pep Guardiola for two years as manager of the Bayern Munich B side.

The Dutchman has a CV that will have impressed those of the Manchester United hierarchy who interviewed him for the job to take over from Ralf Rangnick.

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Rangnick will move upstairs to take up his pre-arranged role as a consultant and he has been one of the main drivers in pursuing the head coach of Ajax ahead of Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino is also understood to have been interviewed but may have found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with PSG.

Even a few weeks ago the former Tottenham Hotspur boss was considered a certainty to become the fifth full-time boss since Sir Alex retired – charged with bringing the good times back to Old Trafford.

Yet no matter who does next sit in the hot seat, one thing is crystal clear – short–term expectations must be low and he needs to be given time to re-organise, re-structure and re-invent a club that has not only lost its way but it’s soul.

The idea that Champions League football must be staged at the Theatre of Dreams year on year must be dropped for starters.

United fans must learn to live with the reality that simply throwing money at the problem has been proved to be a flawed philosophy.

Likewise the club’s owners and upper management – despite them continually chasing the next big buck.

Harry Maguire cost a world record fee for a centre back of £80million and if anyone illustrates how spending huge money often does not work it is him.

England fans who booed him during the 3-0 win over Ivory Coast were rightfully shamed by Three Lions head coach Gareth Southgate and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

But the fact is Maguire has not become the fulcrum of the Old Trafford defence that he was expected to be – although he is only one example of how money is not a cure – at all.

Jadon Sancho cost £70m last summer but has often struggled to display his undoubted attacking talents.

Raphael Varane, at £34m, looked a decent buy but he has spent half his time since arriving from Real Madrid fighting injuries because his body can’t take the work load of Prem intensity.


Cristiano Ronaldo’s romantic return has in effect flopped.

True enough he is their leading scorer with 18 goals and got a hat-trick in the 3-2 triumph over Spurs as he kept breaking those scoring records of his.

But where was he as Atletico Madrid won 1-0 four days later to dump United out of the Champions League?

And on a salary of £495,000 a week?

Edinson Cavani is also on fortunes.

Although he arrived on a free, United was always a club too far for the veteran striker who has been on gardening leave for most of the season and is injured once more.

Paul Pogba cost £89m but he has never re-paid that club record outlay, sometimes through no fault of his own – and will be gone for free this summer.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka cost £50m but is the most average right wingback in Europe.

Who, amongst the United faithful, would miss Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof who cost £61m between them?

Now United are lining up West Ham’s Declan Rice for at least £100m and to give him credit his technical abilities suggest that he, at least, will bring something to the table.


But United are at ground zero and time has to be spent building a completely new structure.

If it is to be Ten Hag then at least he has shown he has the ability to do so.

And not for a lot of money, either.

Few clubs in Europe have a stronger reputation for development than Ajax.

When they came within seconds of the Champions League final in 2019, three of the stars of that squad were Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and a certain Donny van de Beek – who at £40m would become yet another United flop.

They were all homegrown talents – the likes of which Ferguson used to roll off the conveyer belt while he was winning 13 Prem titles and two Champions League trophies.

But Ten Hag was also clever in that he added experience to his squad and for very little money.

He ended four years without the title in 2018/19, won it again in 2020/21 and Ajax go into this weekend two clear at the top having been joint leaders in 2019-20 before Covid curtailed the season.

In 2018, Ten Hag signed Daley Blind – who was never better than moderate at United – and Dusan Tadic, two players who are now aged 32 and 33 respectively.

In 2020, Davy Klaassen, a midfield mis-fit with Everton, arrived and was followed last year by Steven Berghuis, joining from fierce rivals Feyenoord at the age of 29.

Berghuis, Tadic and Blind all started the 3-2 win over Feyenoord before the international break.

Alongside them were Jurrien Timber (20), Noussair Mazraoui (24), Lisandro Martinez (24), Edson Alvarez (24), Ryan Gravenberch (19) and Antony (22).

They have come through the ranks and are now getting the final part of their education by learning from older heads.

They will, almost certainly unlike United, be playing in the Champions League again next season.

Given time, should Ten Hag be appointed, he has the qualifications to turn his Dutch renaissance into an Old Trafford one.

But without that time – and remember it took Jurgen Klopp three and a half years to win his first trophy with Liverpool – he, or Pochettino for that matter, may find it impossible to restore the old glory days to Old Trafford.

Money has not bought any love for Ferguson’s predecessors.

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Nor should the next man through the door feel that they must buy time, either.

If that is the case then that clock will already be counting down to yet another failure.

Man Utd could be set for a huge squad overhaul in the summer

Man Utd could be set for a huge squad overhaul in the summerCredit: Reuters


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