Erik ten Hag focuses on next season amid speculation over Old Trafford future

Erik ten Hag looked ahead to next season and insisted assurances about his future were “not necessary” before a report emerged on the eve of the FA Cup final that Manchester United will sack him.

After winning the Carabao Cup, finishing third in the Premier League and reaching the FA Cup final during a promising first season, things have gone awry under the Dutchman this term.

United are preparing to face Manchester City in a second straight FA Cup final but stumbling home eighth – their worst Premier League finish – has led to intense talk about Ten Hag’s position ahead of Saturday’s clash.

The under-fire boss brushed aside any suggestion of the final potentially being his last match in a build-up that saw him asked whether talks were planned with the owners early next week to reflect on everything.

“No, we already did (it) and on Sunday I will go on holiday,” he said. “I think I deserve it.”

Asked then whether he has been given any assurances he will definitely be United manager next season, he said: “It is not necessary. We go for next season.”

Ten Hag spoke confidently at his pre-final press conference on Thursday but the following day – just over 24 hours before kick-off at Wembley – The Guardian reported that the club have already decided his fate.

The report said that United, now led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s ambitious Ineos team, will sack the 54-year-old even if they win at Wembley – the same fate that befell his compatriot Louis van Gaal in 2016.

Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag is confident he will remain at Old Trafford next season (Steven Paston/PA)

United were quick to insist that no decision has been made on the manager’s future, stressing that the season will be reviewed after the Wembley showpiece.

The club also claimed that speculation about Ten Hag would not a distraction, but it hardly helps preparations in their bid to spring a surprise against overwhelming favourites City.

“We will be in a very different place if we win on Saturday because we will be in Europe and we will have another trophy,” the Dutchman said, with Europa League qualification on offer as well as silverware.

“But, still, also three finals in two seasons is very good, I would say, because this club when I entered it was not in a good state, absolutely not. I think we improved a lot.

“Then even when you consider all the injuries we have – it’s a horrible season for us on that fact and absolutely that has to change.

“We have to make our measures in the summer to change this.”

Ten Hag has repeatedly, and quite understandably, pointed to the impact of United’s eye-watering injury record this season and used his final pre-match press conference of the campaign to underline his overall record.

“I mentioned (possibly winning two trophies in two years) because I think it’s the fact,” he said. “It’s the truth.

“This club is in a transition period, we have progressed many players to higher levels.

“Some youngsters also came into the team and then became internationals. Also selected for Copa America and the Euros, which is very good.

“So, we want to improve the squad, we want to create a team for the future, but in the meantime we want to win trophies.

“Again, on Saturday we have a big opportunity to win another trophy and that is the third final in two years. I would say, it’s not too bad.”

Put to him that some people may overlook that when they judge him, Ten Hag said: “I am sure that – I agree with you – many forget this, yeah. Absolutely.”