‘On trial’: Man Utd boss has one month to save his job as worst-ever EPL finish looms

    Under-fire Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag has one month to save his job in the wake of the team’s humiliating collapse in the FA Cup semi-final on the weekend.

    United scraped past minnows Coventry on penalties after letting a 3-0 lead slip in embarrassing fashion and seeing an extra-time Coventry goal fortuitously ruled out for off-side.

    The Red Devils are currently seventh in the Premier League and face the prospect of missing out on qualification for the Champions League or Europa League, while Ten Hag has also fallen out with multiple players this season, from Jadon Sancho to Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho.

    United are just two points ahead of West Ham and three ahead of Chelsea – who have a game in hand.

    Finishing lower than their current seventh is a very real possibility, something they haven’t done since 1989-90 before the Premier League was founded.

    No wonder Ten Hag’s job is well and truly on the line.

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    New minority club owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe was in attendance at Wembley alongside majority owner Avram Glazer, as was the club’s newly-signed technical director Jason Wilcox.

    Ratcliffe has already made major changes to the United hierarchy as he seeks to reshape the club into the formidable force it once was – and deliver a first title to Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012-13.

    Wilcox, poached from Southampton but highly respected for his previous work as Manchester City’s Academy director, is in charge of creating a unified style of play at United that will stretch from the first team down through the Academy.

    The biggest decision he will make – or that Ratcliffe will make under his advice – is whether Ten Hag can succeed as manager under this new whole-of-club approach.

    Ten Hag is not expected to be fired before the season is out, despite the team’s dismal lack of consistency and form this campaign.

    But The Telegraph reports Ten Hag “will effectively be on trial over the next month” as Wilcox analyses whether the manager is the right man to take the team forward.

    United’s final Premier League game is on May 19 (local time), before they face Manchester City in the rematch of last year’s FA Cup final six days later.

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    Ten Hag desperately tried to calm his players amid an FA Cup meltdown.Source: AFP

    The Telegraph reports that Wilcox will attend Ten Hag’s training sessions and interview a host of players and staff, seeking to understand whether United’s injuries this season is the key reason for their struggles – or if Ten Hag is to blame.

    Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel is leaving that club at the end of the season despite leading them to the Champions League semi-finals, and is reportedly open to taking over at Old Trafford next season. German outlets including Kicker have reported that Ratcliffe has held initial talks with Tuchel, who is also wanted by Barcelona.

    Ten Hag has now led United to back-to-back FA Cup finals, where they’ll face Manchester City for a second-straight year.

    But while the result was positive, the manner of the semi-final victory was alarming, continuing a damning trend of inconsistency and an inability to control matches.

    A fortnight ago, they conceded an 84th-minute penalty to drop points against Liverpool. The match before then, they led Chelsea 3-2 in the 90th minute only to lose 4-3. Before that, they drew 1-1 at Brentford when Mason Mount scored in the 96th minute only to concede an even later goal.

    United legend Roy Keane slammed his former team after the Coventry clash.

    “I don’t like what I see from this United team,” Keane told ITV. “They are hard to like.

    “Manchester United play in moments, they always give you chances. We’ve seen it already in the FA Cup this season with the games against Wigan and Newport County. (Harry) Maguire said he saw character but I don’t see character.

    “I’m almost getting to the point where I don’t like them. I’m seeing bad habits. The goalkeeper is wasting time at 2-0 up, get on with the game and go and flex your muscles. They’ll be celebrating getting to a cup final tonight but all this does is put more pressure on the manager.”

    He added: “My goodness, they rode their luck at the end. The substitutions, the goal gave Coventry belief and all of a sudden they looked like a Premier League team in extra-time and United looked like a Championship team.”

    It was a horror collapse from United.Source: Getty Images

    Former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher said: “Mark Robins famously kept a Manchester United manager’s job (when he scored as a United player to spare Sir Alex Ferguson the axe).

    “I think that result against Coventry has just cost a Man United manager his job. I don’t see how Erik ten Hag stays.

    “It’s just performance after performance. It’s probably the most-embarrassed dressing room of a team that has just won a big game.

    “Can you imagine that dressing room when you go in they’re all sat there looking each other, they don’t know whether to celebrate, is it a big thing that you’re in a cup final and got through? They’re probably all just sat there looking at each other.

    “What is it about Ten Hag that makes you think he’s going to take Man United forward next season? I just don’t see it.”

    The Dutch manager hit back at the criticism labelling them ‘embarrassing’, saying: “This game is not an embarrassment, I don’t see that word.

    “It a huge achievement. We achieved two finals in two years. From all the setbacks we’ve had, even today we had 3-3, and need consistency from the referee.”

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    But United are almost certain to miss out on Champions League qualification given the Red Devils sit 16 points off fourth-placed Aston Villa.

    Fifth place in the Premier League will qualify for next season’s Europa League, while the FA Cup winners also earn a Europa League berth – meaning United could qualify for European football if they beat City in the final.

    Given City will qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top four, if they win the FA Cup then the Europa League place they receive will be passed along to the sixth-placed Premier League finisher.

    Currently, United are seventh, level on 50 points with sixth-placed Newcastle in a congested part of the Premier League ladder.

    They run the risk of failing to qualify for any European competitions next season, while even a seventh-placed finish would be the club’s worst since 2013-14, the year after Sir Alex Ferguson left. They have not finished lower than seventh since 1989-90 – before the Premier League was founded.

    Such a finish would be truly damning and likely end Ten Hag’s tenure at the club.

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    Fortunately for Ten Hag and United, they face last-placed Sheffield United on Thursday morning (5am AEST) before second-bottom Burnley visit on the weekend.

    Ten Hag’s one-month ‘trial’ couldn’t have started with more favourable fixtures. But as the Coventry match showed, facing a weaker team can make United’s flaws stand out even more.

    The pressure is on. By the time United finish their campaign at Wembley against Manchester City, a decision might already have been made on Ten Hag’s future.

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