Erik ten Hag leads race to become next Manchester United manager

PSG's Mauricio Pochettino, Spanish national team coach Luis Enrique and Sevilla's Julen Lopetegui are also in the hunt

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The race is on to appoint a new permanent Manchester United manager to replace interim boss Ralf Rangnick – and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag is currently in the box seat.

Here The National runs the rule over the leading candidates to take the helm at Old Trafford next season.

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag, 52, has already been interviewed by Old Trafford bosses, who now plan further talks with the Dutchman.

He began his coaching career in Holland with Go Ahead Eagles, then took charge of Bayern Munich II in Germany before moving back to the Netherlands as sporting director and head coach of FC Utrecht.

He took over as head coach at Ajax in December 2017 and led them to their first Eredivisie title for five years in 2019. They also won the league in 2021 and currently sit two points clear of rivals PSV in the league.

Perhaps Ten Hag's most eye-catching achievement was in 2019 when he took Ajax to their first Champions League semi-final since 1997. On the way they beat holders Real Madrid 4-1 in the Santiago Bernabeu in the last-16.

Manchester United have been impressed by the way Ten Hag has assembled two successful teams in spite of having to sell young stars such as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt.

Although Ajax were knocked out of the Champions League by Benfica in the last-16 this season, Ten Hag's style of play and ability to get the best out of young players is seen as a good fit for the long-term rejuvenation of United.

Mauricio Pochettino

United are long-time admirers of the 50-year-old Argentinian. He started his management career at Espanyol before switching to the Premier League with Southampton in 2013.

He moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2014 and the high point of his spell at the London club was taking them to their first Champions League final in 2019. He also clinched a Premier League runners-up place in 2017, their highest finish in the league since 1963.

But in 2019, after a poor string of results left Spurs languishing in 14th in the Premier League, Pochettino was sacked.

In 2021, he replaced Thomas Tuchel as head coach of Paris Saint-Germain. He led PSG to the Champions League semi-finals where they were knocked out by Manchester City, but the club finished second in Ligue 1 behind Lille.

This season, despite boasting attacking talents such as Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar, PSG were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in the last-16. The fact that they have a 12-point lead in the league may not be enough to save Pochettino's job.

If he is sacked, it would clear the way for Manchester United to land him without paying compensation and his high-pressing style and ability to get the best out of young players is a major selling point.

Luis Enrique

The Spaniard, 51, has followed a glittering playing career with an impressive start in management.

His first major job was as head coach of Barcelona where he won La Liga in 2015 and 2016 and landed the Champions League in 2015. He also bagged three Copa del Reys and a Fifa Club World Cup during his time at the Camp Nou.

He took over as coach of the Spain national team in 2018 and led them to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 last year.

His coaching style relies on incisive, direct football rather than an emphasis on possession, with quick transitions from defence to attack – a style in keeping with Manchester United's DNA.

A major sticking point is the timing as Enrique is certain to want to lead Spain to the World Cup in Qatar in November and December, meaning he would have to miss the first half of next season.

Julen Lopetegui

The Spaniard, 55, began his management career at Porto in 2014 before he was appointed Spain manager in 2016. He led the national side to the 2018 World Cup, winning nine and drawing one of their group matches. Before the tournament began, he moved back into club management, taking over the reins at Real Madrid in August 2018.

His short tenure at Los Blancos was brought to an end in October that year after a string of bad results.

His move to Sevilla in 2019 has proved more successful. He won the Europa League in 2020 and they currently sit in second place in La Liga behind Real Madrid.

Thomas Tuchel

The German, 48, began life at Borussia Dortmund before taking on the job at Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.

In his time at the Parc de Princes, he won Ligue 1 twice and took them to their first Champions League final in 2020, where they lost to Bayern Munich.

When he was fired by PSG, he had the best win rate – 75.6 per cent – in Ligue 1 history.

In January 2021, he was appointed as Chelsea manager and led them to victory in the Champions League final against Manchester City.

He has since added the Fifa Club World Cup and the Uefa Super Cup to his tally at Stamford Bridge, as well as taking Chelsea to FA Cup and League Cup finals.

Tuchel has a knack for getting the best out of players and is not afraid to drop expensive big-name signings such as Romelu Lukaku if he feels it benefits the team. Both are attributes that would come in handy at United.

So far Tuchel has said he is happy to see out his contract at Stamford Bridge but, with the uncertainty surrounding the club after it was put up for sale by Roman Abramovich, watch this space ...

Updated: March 24, 2022, 5:05 AM