Both are currently under contract at their respective clubs and focussed on winning their domestic league titles in the Netherlands and France. The Dutch Eredivisie concludes on May 15 and France’s Ligue 1 on April 30.
United’s football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher have had several rounds of meetings, which began six weeks ago following a period of detailed research and consultation on the United side, which included the views of several former United players.
After years of under achieving, United are determined to employ a manager who can make the club successful again.
In the meetings with managers or their representatives which followed, United discussed in detail the intentions and ideas of the candidates. Murtough and Fletcher know the importance of the appointment and wanted as much clarity as possible. When interviewing for the position of United’s interim manager last November, the meetings with candidates lasted up to two-and-a-half hours.
Chief executive while Richard Arnold will be guided primarily by Murtough and Fletcher from a football perspective and has now become involved in discussions and meetings around the two leading candidates. It is understood that both would like to manage Manchester United.
United fans favour Ten Hag, 52, who has done an excellent job at Ajax. In one poll on the United We Stand fanzine, 62 per cent went for the former Go Ahead Eagles, Bayern Munich B, Utrecht and current Ajax manager, with 38 per cent preferring the former Espanyol, Southampton, Spurs and current PSG coach.
Former England manager and United assistant manager Steve McClaren, who had Ten Hag as assistant at FC Twente in the Netherlands a decade ago, gave United a glowing assessment of him and said he had the attributes to succeed, provided he gets the right support network around him.
However, several former players and managers think the Argentinian, 50, would be a better fit. Nicky Butt last week said: “I’d go all out and get Pochettino as manager. He’s proven in the Premier League, he’s young and enthusiastic. His style of play would suit Man United and his backroom staff seem switched on. I met him a couple of times at Tottenham’s training ground and had lunch with him. He was someone who you’d want to play for.”
Butt, who was at United in a senior role for nine years until leaving a year ago, also said United need stability over anything else, saying: “United can’t keep having interim managers or learners in powerful positions at the club. They need people who have been there, seen it and done it.”
Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui, 55, is one of the coaches who United had on a four-man shortlist. He is not out of the running, but it’s highly improbable that he’ll be moving to England and stated last week how happy he is in Andalusia.
Spain manager Luis Enrique, who has many admirers at Old Trafford, is seen to have all the qualities required and was also recommended by several former United players. But the Spaniard has made it clear that he’s committed to Spain for the World Cup finals later this year.
United have no appetite to go into next season with an interim manager at the risk of writing off another campaign. The club want clarity going into the summer and players being targeted by the club are also asking who the manager is likely to be.
Current interim boss Ralph Rangnick has limited say in the matter and has been asked to concentrate on seeing the season out and getting United in as high a league position as possible. United are currently seventh in the Premier League, with the team having won eight, drawn six and lost two of the league games since the German took over.