• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Man United boss Ten Hag banks on FA Cup title to save job

Erik ten Hag belatedly produces a tactical masterclass to land FA Cup – and make it harder to sack him

Embattled Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has set sight on winning Saturday’s FA Cup final against rivals Manchester City to save his job at Old Trafford.

The 54-year-old Dutchman is under pressure to keep his job amid speculation that United’s new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe plans to axe him after the 2023/24 turbulent season.

United finished eighth in the Premier League, their lowest Premier League position since the 1990 season and crashed out in the group stage of the Uefa Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s Man City were crowned Premier League champions for an unprecedented fourth successive season last weekend, giving them six titles in seven years and have beaten United twice already this season and Ten Hag knows a surprise win for underdogs United would be a well-timed feather in his cap.

“It’s all about trophies. We have a huge opportunity to win a trophy. In the last 10 years, there have not been so many trophies at the club but we have the opportunity to win two in two years,” Ten Hag said on Thursday as quoted by AFP.

“The FA Cup final, it’s a big event. Even in a season that is not in our way, we are there. We know we have an opportunity.

“It won’t be easy but we must go for it. We have to believe it. We know often against good opposition we play our best football and that must be the same on Saturday.”

Ten Hag, who led United to their first trophy in six years when they won the League Cup last season, also clashed with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, reportedly creating a rift in the dressing room.

United have been linked with England boss Gareth Southgate, former Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, departing Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel and Ipswich chief Kieran McKenna.

But the former Ajax manager is confident of winning United’s first FA Cup title since 2016, to avenge last season’s loss to Man City at the same stage of the competition and ensuring his club qualify for European football next season.

Asked if the final could be his last match as United manager, Ten Hag laughed and told reporters: “I have nothing to say. I’m just focusing on the job I have to do.

“That is first to win the game on Saturday and then we are in the project. Keep going in the project.

“After every season you review it and see where you are in the project and what things may need to change.

“We spoke lately about it. Players are developing and values are going up.”

The Red Devils’ 2023.24 season have been hampered by injuries to key players, but some of these players are back to fitness ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have returned, with Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Anthony Martial pictured in training this week, although Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw will be sidelined.