Man Utds next manager should be obvious after Tottenham steal Antonio Conte

Solskjaer and Fernandes laud Man Utd attacking talent

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Antonio Conte’s appointment as Tottenham manager made headline news in the Premier League on Tuesday and the move came as a boost for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Had Solskjaer lost Saturday’s crunch match against Spurs then it could have been him, and not Nuno Espirito Santo, who found himself replaced by Conte.

The 3-0 win for United was a massive one for Solskjaer, who eased the pressure and bought himself some more time after the damaging defeats against Leicester and Liverpool.

Solskjaer is safe for now, but with the Manchester derby and some other tricky fixtures on the horizon, his job security may not last for long.

Conte is off the market, but United’s hierarchy should not be resting on their laurels. They should be identifying potential replacements for Solskjaer, who is approaching his three-year anniversary in the job.

And one place they should be focusing their attention is Amsterdam, where Ajax manager Erik ten Hag is making a compelling case for one of Europe’s top jobs.

According to The Sun, Ten Hag is already on the radar at Old Trafford, as he was one of four names on the club’s shortlist for Solskjaer’s successor, alongside Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Brendan Rodgers.

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Having taken Real Madrid to three straight Champions League triumphs, Zidane’s biggest potential plus point is his ability to manage the egos in the United dressing room.

If United want a big name who would command respect straight away, then Zidane is the man to succeed Solskjaer.

But the club should look beyond face value. Ten Hag would represent more of a gamble, given the undeniable step up in quality from Eredivisie to Premier League and heightened expectations.

Yet his progress with Ajax is so impressive that he should not be discounted on account of his experience.

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Ten Hag has been in charge of Ajax for four years. In that time he has won two league and cup doubles and reached the Champions League semi-final.

He has played a key role in the development of players like United’s Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Kasper Dolberg (Nice), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow) and Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus).

As is the Ajax way, he is now giving similar opportunities to the new era of Ryan Gravenberch, Jurrien Timber and Devyne Rensch.

And it is paying off: Ajax are top of the Eredivisie and their goal difference of plus 35 – from 37 goals scored and two conceded – is their best after 11 games since 1995.

Their disappointing 0-0 draw on the weekend against Heracles still brought a fourth successive away clean sheet in the league this season and their 11th in 15 matches across all competitions.

Ten Hag subscribes to the classic Ajax brand of Total Football, which is unsurprising considering he has pictures of Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal on the wall in his office, but the style has been adapted to add defensive steel. The team defends and attacks as one.

The 51-year-old’s philosophy comes from Ajax’s history but also his time as manager of Bayern Munich’s B team during Pep Guardiola’s time in charge of the first team.

“Pep was a pioneer, he changed football in Germany,” Ten Hag told Sueddeutsche Zeitung in 2019. “I watched almost every training session. I took a lot from him, in terms of his methods, how he gets his philosophy onto the pitch, build-up play, transition, attack, he had drills for everything.”

The quality and depth of the Eredivisie is often questioned, but Ajax’s form in the Champions League shows their class. The Dutch side have a perfect record after three games in Group C, having beaten Sporting Lisbon, Besiktas and Borussia Dortmund.

Their most recent result – a 4-0 win over Dortmund – showed a side in perfect harmony and the fact Ajax have the second-highest xG in competition, behind only Manchester City, shows their level, albeit from a small sample size.

Ten Hag is a progressive coach, a good man-manager and ready for a step up in his career. The fact he is reluctant to move to relegation-threatened Newcastle – and backed out of talks with Spurs in the summer – perhaps shows he is waiting for a better opportunity.

Manchester United should speak to their former goalkeeper and current Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar if they have any further doubts.

It is only a matter of time until Ten Hag lands a big job. United should ensure it is at Old Trafford, rather than the Camp Nou or Allianz Arena.

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