Erik ten Hag has refused to rule out the possibility of joining Manchester United and added that he hopes Ajax will understand if he decides to take the “next step” in his managerial career.
Ten Hag and United have held official talks, which were described as “very positive”, over the Dutchman becoming the Premier League side’s next manager.
Following that interview, United have been informally gathering information around Ten Hag, including a potential compensation figure should they choose to appoint him.
The 52-year-old insists he is focused on leading Ajax, who are top of the Eredivisie and play PSV in the Dutch cup final later this month, but admitted that “things can change from one day to the next” during an interview with Sport 1 in Germany.
“My focus is currently only on Ajax, but in football you never know,” said Ten Hag. “I don’t want to rule anything out. I’m currently employed here at Ajax to perform. With the cup final against Eindhoven we still have eight finals left and I need all my energy for that. Anything else would just be a distraction.
“I know that everything in football can change from one day to the next. If at some point I should decide to take the next step, I hope that people here will understand.”
Asked to confirm or deny speaking to United, Ten Hag added: “Everyone knows each other in the industry. There are always talks with representatives from other clubs, that’s normal.
“Manchester United is a great club with great fans, but I can only repeat myself: my full focus is completely on Ajax. We are already planning for the new season. I’ve sat down with Ajax after every season so far. That will also be the case this time.
“I can say that Ajax and Erik ten Hag are very happy with each other at the moment.”
Ajax granted permission for the discussions between United and Ten Hag, and sources close to the coach and the Dutch club have suggested that dialogue has taken place over the financial element of his potential move to Old Trafford, as well as how to handle a possible announcement – should the process progress that way – in terms of timing and presentation, given Ajax are in a tight title race.
However, United insist this is premature, and no formal enquiry has been put forward in that regard. They have made it very clear that they do not have a preferred candidate yet to take charge next season, and are simply following a rigorous process to settle on the right man.
Ascertaining compensation figures and ease of appointment will be done with all candidates. The club feel it is unfair to portray Ten Hag as the front-runner for the position when they are still working through their shortlist.
Mauricio Pochettino and Luis Enrique are also under consideration, while Julen Lopetegui seemingly ruled himself out of contention by saying: “I am where I want to be. Continue on the Sevilla bench next season? I have no doubt.”
Sources have intimated Ten Hag would be the easiest to secure as Ajax expect him to leave and have been smooth to negotiate with.
Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, will part company with Pochettino on their terms and not that of another club.
It has been reported they would have to fork out between £15m to £20m if they sack the Argentine and his staff, an outlay that would be saved if he was offered and accepted another job.
Pochettino and Ten Hag have long been considered the favoured options for the job, a line of reporting that has not been discouraged by United.
Interest in Enrique is complicated by his commitment to Spain, who he is due to lead at the World Cup in Qatar.
Neville’s five-point plan for Glazers to ‘reset’ Man Utd
Gary Neville has once again called on the Glazer family to sell Manchester United, but has set out a five-point plan for them to “reset the culture” if they choose to remain at the club.
The American family have been in charge at Old Trafford since 2005 but they have overseen just three major trophy wins – an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League – in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager.
United’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid in March means they are currently enduring their worst trophy drought in 40 years, while supporter opposition to the Glazers was increased by their ill-fated attempt to include the club in the European Super League last year.
Neville admitted the Super League fiasco was a turning point in his relationship with United’s owners, but he believes they can begin to get the fans back on side if they commit to a number of changes at the club – including building a new stadium.
Speaking at a Sky Bet fan debate on The Overlap, Neville said: “I’m really worried at this moment in time. I’d never gone for the Glazer family whilst I was at the club. I saw no reason to – we were successful.
“The Super League was a moment for me where all those owners demonstrated complete and utter greed and disdain for English football. They were willing to ruin it on behalf of their own interests.
“In terms of the Glazer family, post that Super League they said they were going to communicate, they said they were going to change things. They’ve not changed anything.
“My view is there is a problem right at the very top. They’ve had 10 years to prove they can be good football operators beyond Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill (former chief executive), and they’ve proven they can’t do it.
“The first thing that should happen is they should sell the club, because of the Super League, because of their 10 years of failure without Ferguson and that team that he had. But if they really want to stay – because you can never force the Glazer family to sell – then they’ve got to do four or five things.
“Number one, they’ve got to stop taking the dividends out of the club if they want to reset the culture. When the owners are pulling money out of the club at the expense of a successful team, it’s a bad message from the very top.
“Number two, they’ve got to pay off that debt and they can do that by selling £500m worth of shares to the fans. They can then rebuild that stadium with a billion quid. It does probably need knocking down to be fair.
“That doesn’t need renovation, it needs a new stadium, and that money can be funded from a 20-year contract with a sponsor at £60m, £70m a year. Call it ‘something Old Trafford’ and we have a brand new stadium that resets the culture of Manchester United, where we have the best stadium in the world. That needs to happen.
“They then need to build a new training ground. Me and Roy (Keane) were part of the squad when we moved 22 years ago. We were devastated to leave The Cliff, but we’ve now got a training ground that’s behind the other training grounds.
“They then need to go and put £100m, £150m a year into a proper sporting project, along with those four things, and then you can say ‘the Glazer family have reset the culture of the club’. The fans are on the edge again.”
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