How INEOS could save Erik ten Hag’s job

The impossible job.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, managing Manchester United has been nothing short of a horror show.

The inevitable demise chasing each contender like a black hole looming in the darkness.

David Moyes lost the fans in 10 months, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, despite their pedigree, both faced the sack in sour exits.

Even club legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, renowned for creating the club’s greatest moment, scoring the winning goal against Bayern Munich to win the treble, couldn’t avoid this harrowing fate.

Just under two years into his reign and current United manager Erik ten Hag is staring down the barrel of a potential sacking.

While the Dutch coach isn’t there quite yet, consistent poor form combined with an unattractive style of play has left Ten Hag vulnerable.

If results continue, then a sacking may become a reality, but would this actually solve anything?

In 11 years, five different managers have all struggled to implement the style they’ve wanted.

If history is anything to go by, then a new manager would likely suffer the same fate.

The optimists in the fanbase believe the right manager will make everything click and become the new Sir Matt Busby or Ferguson and create a future dynasty at the club.

However, the more realistic fans, let down by 11 years of failure, are coming to see that real change comes from the top rather than the bottom.

While the Glazers had full control of the club, these potential improvements seemed like nothing more than a hopeful dream, but with INEOS’ 27.7% purchase of United, this fantasy is becoming a reality.

How INEOS can save Erik ten Hag

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the man spearheading this new revolution, is no amateur when it comes to elite sports.

With stakes in Mercedes F1 team, the New Zealand rugby side and the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team, Ratcliffe knows all about what is needed to succeed at the highest level of sporting competitions.

Ratcliffe and INEOS know that a world class structure is vital to any success United dream of having.

Subsequently, since their arrival, United have transformed their structure.

Bringing in specialists like City Football Group’s chief football operations officer Omar Berrada and a likely capture of transfer expert Dan Ashworth from Newcastle, is just the start of INEOS’ transformation of the club.

No one can guarantee success, but this transition away from a managerial run club as seen with Ferguson for so many years, to a hierarchical project built on putting the best people in important positions, is a move which United have desperately needed.

The success of Manchester City and Liverpool in recent years is hugely down to this hierarchical approach.

For Ten Hag, this new foundation behind him, will move the club away from commercial priorities, to putting football at the heart of United again.

How this will change United’s transfer strategy

A huge part of United’s recent struggles has been their mismanagement in the transfer market.

Too often United have brought in players clearly not up-to the standards needed, offering them ridiculously high wages and subsequently struggling to sell them after.

Under former chief executive Ed Woodward, the businessman was significant in making signings, whereas in a shift of approach, in the past two seasons, Ten Hag has been given major control when identifying players.

Both strategies have failed, with Woodward not getting players the manager needed or Ten Hag picking players not good enough for United.

So how will INEOS fix this?

In addition to the capture of Berrada and potentially Ashworth, INEOS are looking to bring in another former City employee, through Southampton’s director of football Jason Wilcox.

Wilcox and Berrada know each other well, as the Southampton director had worked his way up from coach to academy director at City before leaving to join the Saints.

Such changes will transform United’s recruitment strategy, as for the first time in 11 years, experts will be making decisions on who is brought into the club.

This change cannot be underestimated, with the wealth of knowledge these figures bring in, United’s transfer business will improve dramatically, with better recruitment of players and stronger sales as well.

This could be Ten Hag’s saving grace as the Dutch coach will take a step back from the proactive hands on approach he’s had in United’s transfer business so far, to then be given players recommended by these experts in recruitment, ready to improve the team instantly.

Such signings could significantly improve Ten Hag’s United side, so the former Ajax boss can finally implement the style he’d like.

However, with the concept of ‘gardening leave’ proving a big obstacle in INEOS’ behind the scenes shakeup, Ten Hag will need to revolutionise his own United side if he wishes to be in charge when the changes are implemented.

What Erik ten Hag needs to do to stay in the job

The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League table, following a capitulating loss to Chelsea and a horrendous draw against Brentford.

With nine points the gap to fifth place Tottenham and just eight games to go, Champions League qualification seems incredibly unlikely.

Doubts are beginning to creep in, with fans growing increasingly impatient at the poor results and disappointing performances.

In 2024, United have faced 224 shots, the most in the entire Premier League, while over the course of the season, they place third, just behind relegation threats Sheffield United and Luton Town.

Ten Hag has set United up in a ‘smash and grab’ approach to games, which involves conceding possession and giving up a lot of shots, with the hope of coping due to superiority in quality defensively and striking on the counter with fast and deadly attacks.

You don’t need to be an expert to identify that this strategy just isn’t working and with the ongoing injury crisis Ten Hag is facing, particularly in his defence, United aren’t able to get away with scraping games each time.

While this has proven effective in some games like in the 4-3 victory over Liverpool, it’s an incredibly risky strategy which can backfire, just as much as it can succeed.

Despite the disappointing season United are having so far, it’s reported in the Athletic that INEOS want to stick with the Dutch coach.

Therefore, with the imminent changes to United’s overall structure, INEOS’ implementation could save Ten Hag by giving him the quality of players he needs to produce the style he aspires to.

That said, Ten Hag must produce the right results in the final games of the season to warrant his retention as United manager.