Search icon


02nd Nov 2023

Five managers who could replace Erik ten Hag if Man United decide to make a change

Robert Redmond

Man United next manager

Man United could be looking for a new manager soon.

It’s that time of the year again when Manchester United enter crisis mode and the club’s manager comes under intense pressure.

Erik ten Hag is following the path treaded by processors Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, and David Moyes. The Dutch coach is only in his second season as manager, but it already appears as though he has reached a point of no return.

The Red Devils are experiencing their worst start to a season since 1962. Man United have also lost back-to-back home games by three goals or more for the first time in 53 years, following defeats to Newcastle and Manchester City respectively. Their chances of replicating last season’s top-four finish and winning a trophy currently look extremely remote.

The club are circling the drain, once again, the manager will, it seems, eventually be the fall guy.

Man United: Five managers who could replace Erik ten Hag if club decides to make a change.

Ten Hag has had a mixed spell in charge so far. Man United had one of their best campaigns in recent years last season when they won the League Cup and finished in the top four.

Yet, his recruitment has been flawed, with players such as Antony, Andre Onana and Mason Mount failing to convince. Man United have also suffered embarrassing defeats to Liverpool, Man City, Galatasaray, and Newcastle during his tenure.

Ten Hag, of course, has had a difficult job papering over the cracks at a club in disarray. Ultimately, however, the results on the pitch will cost him, regardless of how poorly the club has been run under the Glazers.

It appears a matter of time before Man United are looking for their sixth permanent manager in the last 10 years. Here are some of the club’s options if they decide to make a change soon.

Zinedine Zidane.

In the past, Zidane has been a popular choice amongst Man United fans to become the club’s new manager.

The Frenchman was a superstar player and has had an equally successful career in the dugout. Zidane won two Spanish league titles and three Champions Leagues across two stints as Real Madrid’s head coach.

The 51-year-old has been out of work since leaving Los Blancos at the end of the 2020/21 season. Man United, however, wouldn’t be a right fit for either party.

Zidane is, by many accounts, more of a man-manager than a detail-orientated coach. He also does not appear interested in working in the Premier League.

Zidane’s legendary status also means that he doesn’t need to take a risk when choosing his next role. He appears content to wait for the right opportunity before going back into coaching.

Ultimately, Zidane can wait for the manager’s position to open at the French national team, Paris Saint-Germain, or Juventus, rather than gambling on the basket-case that is Man United under the Glazers.

BILBAO, SPAIN – MAY 16: Head coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic Club and Real Madrid at Estadio de San Mames on May 16, 2021 in Bilbao, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Julian Nagelsmann.

Nagelsmann is a tactically astute coach, who would fit the profile of what is needed at Old Trafford. The 36-year-old is currently Germany’s national team manager, with a contract that runs until the end of the European Championships next summer.

Nagelsmann, who was sacked by Bayern Munich earlier this year, is unlikely to remain with the national team beyond Euro 2024 in Germany and will be back on the market.

Real Madrid, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have all been linked with the highly-rated coach in the past, and he will end up coaching an elite team again at some point soon.

The German, however, may be cautious when choosing his next role after how his time with Bayern ended.

Nagelsmann’s stock remains high in European football, but Man United may represent too much of a risk for him at this stage of his career.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, cannot afford to gamble on their next appointment.

Nagelsmann was sacked by Bayern Munich on Friday afternoon. (Credit: Getty Images)

Xabi Alonso.

Alonso was a world-class footballer, who won everything as a player and was a key operator under some of the sport’s most successful coaches – from Pep Guardiola to Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez to Carlo Ancelotti.

Alonso has made a seamless transition into coaching and has excelled with Bayer Leverkusen over the last year.

The former Spain midfielder has taken the German side from crisis to top of the Bundesliga in a year.

Leverkusen play eye-catching, exciting attacking football, and every player at his disposal appears to have improved.

Yet, would Man United ever appoint a Liverpool legend? Or, would Alonso even be interested? It is unlikely. The Spaniard reportedly has a break clause in his contract that allows him to take over at one of his former clubs – Liverpool, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich – from next summer onwards.

Alonso likely has his managerial career mapped out, and a stop-off at Man United doesn’t appear to be part of his plans.

Yet, given his status and work as a coach so far, Alonso will surely be on every managerial shortlist for the foreseeable future.

Antonio Conte.

Conte appeared to be the standout choice in the autumn of 2021 when Man United were stalling on sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer,

Conte is an elite coach, who has won league titles with Juventus and Chelsea, and he proved his pedigree by helping Tottenham qualify for the Champions League in 2022 at United’s expense.

Yet, after a positive start with Spurs, the team went off the rails last season and the Italian left the club last March. This toxic end at Tottenham should turn Man United off appointing Conte, despite his stellar credentials as a coach.

The Italian has experienced acrimonious departures from Juventus, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Spurs, and he would surely be driven demented by the situation at Old Trafford.

Conte would be a short-term, nuclear option for Man United, but it’s probably best for both sides if they find alternative options.

Antonio Conte during Spurs' disappointing draw to Southampton

Roberto de Zerbi.

The Brighton coach is arguably the standout candidate to become the next Man United manager.

Since taking over at the Seagulls last year when Graham Potter left for Chelsea, De Zerbi has established himself as one of the sport’s most innovative and talented coaches.

Brighton qualified for Europe for the first time under the Italian and have played wonderful, tactically ingenious, attacking football.

In his first year in charge, Brighton scored the third most goals in the Premier League (76) and led the way for shots and shots on target.

Only Manchester City have had averaged more possession on this time and Brighton rank third for touches in the opposition box.

The Seagulls have also made a transfer profit in this period of almost €100m.

Of course, there are other factors in Brighton’s success – as the club appears to be one of the best run in world football.

Yet, De Zerbi, 44, has helped Brighton take the Premier League by storm, despite losing several key players to richer, more established teams.

He will surely end up at one of the world’s biggest football clubs.

Man United should make him their number-one target for their next permanent manager, and build a coherent football infrastructure around him.

Related links: