Man Utd assess De Zerbi, Southgate should Ten Hag exit – sources

Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Frank and Gareth Southgate are being assessed as potential successors to Erik ten Hag at Manchester United should the Dutch manager leave his post at Old Trafford this summer, sources have told ESPN.

While ESPN sources have said that no decision has been made on Ten Hag’s future by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos group, who now control football operations at United following their purchase of a 27.7% stake in the club last month, options are being explored to gauge the credentials and availability of possible replacements.

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Brighton head coach De Zerbi, Brentford head coach Frank and England manager Southgate are coaches of interest to Ineos, although sources have said that other managers and coaches are also being considered.

With United waiting for incoming chief executive Omar Berrada to serve a period of gardening leave before starting work at Old Trafford and discussions ongoing with Newcastle over a deal for sporting director Dan Ashworth to move to United, Ineos director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford is leading the structural review behind the scenes at the club having already spent months overseeing an audit of United’s player recruitment in recent years.

The drawing up of a contingency plan for the possible exit of Ten Hag is now being done, with Ineos determined to avoid being unprepared in a summer when Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are already in the process of identifying and hiring a new manager.

Ten Hag was hired from Ajax in June 2022 on a three-year contract with United holding the option of an additional 12 months, although he is under pressure to save his job with Ratcliffe, the club’s new minority owner, saying last month that qualification for next season’s Champions League is “important for [financial fair play]” in terms of United complying with FFP and profit and sustainability regulations.

Since Ratcliffe made those comments after completing his minority purchase from the Glazer family, the club’s owners, United have lost successive Premier League games against Fulham and Manchester City and now sit 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Aston Villa.

Should fifth position become a Champions League spot based on England’s UEFA coefficient, United would have to close a six-point gap on Tottenham, who have played one game fewer, to climb into the top five.

Despite United’s disappointing season so far, ESPN sources have said that the club are aware that Ten Hag’s reputation remains high in Europe and there is interest in the Dutch manager from Germany, where Bayer Leverkusen and Vfb Stuttgart could join Bayern in having an attractive managerial vacancy at the end of this season if highly rated coaches Xabi Alonso and Sebastian Hoeness are tempted by new jobs elsewhere.

While United are one of a number of clubs monitoring De Zerbi — one source told ESPN that “everybody is looking at De Zerbi” — Frank’s success at building a high-energy team at Brentford while embracing the London club’s data-led approach to recruitment has earned admirers at Old Trafford.

Sources have said that Southgate would be an outsider should United seek a new manager, with the 53-year-old still undecided about his post-Euro 2024 future with England and having no involvement in the club game since being fired by Middlesbrough in 2009.

But Southgate has a long-standing relationship with Ashworth having worked closely with him at the Football Association (FA) during Ashworth’s six-year stint as the FA’s director of elite development. He has also previously worked closely with Brailsford in the past.

Sources have said that Ten Hag could yet banish the uncertainty surrounding his position by inspiring the team to a successful end to the season and that his readiness to back youngsters such as Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Højlund has highlighted his ability to capitalise on United’s tradition of youth development.

The cost of compensating Ten Hag with a year to run on his contract and then paying a release fee for a new manager could yet prove too high for United, but with doubt surrounding many areas of the club right now, efforts are being made to plan for every eventuality.

United declined to comment when contacted by ESPN.