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Mark White

One man could be keeping Erik ten Hag at Manchester United – and it could define the club's future

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag address a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group A football match FC Bayern Munich v Manchester United in Munich, southern Germany on September 19, 2023.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has had a difficult start to the season, with the Red Devils losing five of their first 12 Premier League games.

Ten Hag's side are well off the pace domestically, out of the League Cup at the first hurdle and currently sit bottom of their Champions League group, needing a minor miracle to progress. But with Manchester United the most in-form side in the league at current, Ten Hag is clinging to his job – while the fans are directing their ire more towards the boardroom than the dugout.

The Dutchman is still among the favourites to be relieved of his duties soon… but has support in powerful places. 

Sir Alex Ferguson still holds sway at United (Image credit: Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)

According the Sun, Sir Alex Ferguson is "hugely supportive" of his successor, and "he thinks those pointing at the manager and calling for a change are wrong."

Naturally, the 13-time Premier League-winning coach still holds a lot of sway at Old Trafford. The Glazers won't exactly care about going against the wishes of Ferguson, mind – they have in the past, after all, and it's not as if they could tarnish their popularity much further – but incoming investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe may be a little more cautious.

Reports claim that Ratcliffe wants to bring in Roberto De Zerbi as manager. If he chooses to do so in his opening weeks as boss, he'll be directly opposing Ferguson – not a make-or-break decision by any means, but one that could shape his relationship with the club. As a huge United fan, will Ratcliffe choose to lean on Sir Alex's advice? Or disregard it completely?

Jim Ratcliffe may choose to keep Ferguson onside (Image credit: Getty Images)

Winning the fans over is going to be key in those opening few weeks. How, if and whether a new investor interacts with them and their most famous figures – leading media presences such as Gary Neville will help to shape a narrative – could be intriguing. Being someone Ferguson approves of is another question: will Ratcliffe aspire to be that?

There's no reason to believe that the INEOS billionaire will even take Ferguson's opinion on board – or that Ferguson would want to be consulted. This year marks a decade since the legendary Scot walked away from Old Trafford and though he has had input into managerial decisions in the past, he isn't on the board or even in a consultancy role at the club. Decision-makers aren't obligated to ask him what he thinks – and Ferguson would have no reason not to trust a new owner sacking an underperforming manager. 

But with Ratcliffe wanting to win over fans and convince the most powerful figures closest to the club that he's the man to guide United forward, keeping people like Ferguson onside may be an unofficial task of his first few weeks at Old Trafford. Ten Hag's very job status may be influenced by his predecessor's opinions…

More Manchester United stories

Scott McTominay has revealed how Manchester United's players were motivated to beat Fulham recently.

Marcus Rashford missed that game, though, and Erik ten Hag has had some strong words for one of his star players.

Meanwhile, a United wonderkid has been linked with a shock move to Manchester City.

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