Forget Graham Potter - Man Utd’s ideal Erik ten Hag successor is staring them in the face

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The Manchester United manager has been heavily scrutinised in recent weeks following a series of poor performances.

They say Magpies are attracted to shiny things. It is little wonder, then, that on Wednesday evening they came for Erik ten Hag’s head, perspiring under the pressure and glistening beneath the Old Trafford floodlights, so readily. To make matters worse, this wasn’t even Newcastle United’s first team. The Dutchman was ambushed by the Territorial Toon Army, and now his job surely hangs by a fraying thread.

In some respects, it was an unfortunate parallel that Manchester United should be so witheringly ousted from the Carabao Cup by the very same team who they beat in last season’s final. The implied effect is that of a devastating before and after, like a satellite image of the Amazon rainforest in a National Geographic article on the dangers of deforestation. The Red Devils are being bulldozed at a resounding rate, and all that is left behind are barren scrublands.

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Were this an isolated capitulation, then perhaps Ten Hag could be excused, but there appears to be a looming realisation - compounded by a series of shoddy performances - that the United boss might not be the man to reverse a decade’s worth of steady regression. Perhaps the most foreboding death knell of all is the Dutchman’s frank post-match assertion that he is ‘a fighter’. That’s all well and good, Erik, but as a general rule of thumb (and granted, I don’t have the data to hand) I would assume that fighters tend to suffer more knockouts per capita than any other social demographic. What United actually need, you fear, is a counsellor. Or a UN peacekeeper.

Which, come to think of it, might be why they have been linked with a sensational attempt at reviving the career of mild-mannered diplomat Graham Potter. Jobless since his doomed stint with Chelsea - a dalliance that represented neither a good time or a long time - the former Brighton manager has been exceedingly careful when it comes to choosing his next project. One wrong move and his reputation will be slashed to ribbons, perhaps irreparably. It’s like he’s playing Granny’s Footsteps with Freddy Krueger.

And yet still, somehow, United have deluded themselves into believing that they are a stable enough project to coax Potter from his self-imposed exile for the purposes of furthering his career. Let’s just hope they didn’t collect quotes from Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Jose Mourinho, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Romelu Lukaku, Louis van Gaal, David Moyes, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexis Sanchez, Victor Valdes, Ralf Rangnick, Wilf Zaha, Memphis Depay, or Donny van de Beek for quotes to include in their welcome brochure.

Needless to say that given the precarious circumstances both club and candidate find themselves in, an affiliation between Potter and United feels like a substantial punt, and one that neither party could afford to bungle right now. Besides, if reports are to be believed, the measured Englishman could be on the brink of becoming the manager of Sweden’s national team; a role that, aside from being compensation for Sven-Goran Eriksson, would allow him to indulge his two true passions - knitted turtlenecks and am-dram productions of The Nutcracker set against wintry backdrops - with a-(sugar)-plomb. At Old Trafford, he would have to settle for a zipped-up cagoule and a Sisyphean run of Look Back in Anger on a puddle-strewn stage.

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In short, it would not be a good fit, and anyways, you suspect that if United are to guillotine Ten Hag, then they need to go big with their next appointment; unbendable, unsinkable. Somebody who could emerge from Salford Quays like Godzilla and weather the kind of storms that ordinarily derail perilous tenures. Does anybody have Zinedine Zidane’s phone number?

One of the foundational tenets of our beloved late stage capitalist hellscape is that scarcity creates demand. Zizou has taken that principle and grafted it sublimely onto the world of football management; the French maestro may only have ever helmed one club, Real Madrid, and might have been out of work for a little over two years, but still his reputation remains that of an elite appointment. Of course, three Champions League titles, two La Ligas, and a couple of Best FIFA Men’s Coach awards will do that for you.

But towering figures have arrived at Old Trafford before (don’t make me repeat the list), and almost without exception they have crumbled like mausoleums built on pink wafer biscuits. Reverence alone is not enough to assure success in an biome as freely toxic as United’s. Where Zidane differs, however, is in the extent to which his renown is backed up by substance. Few, if any, can claim to boast the instantaneous, prolonged glory that he does, and aside from Pep Guardiola (impossible) and perhaps Jurgen Klopp (impossible in a baseball cap), there are no managerial names in world football as desirable as the Frenchman’s.

At the present moment in time, United are characterised by discordance on the pitch and a cacophony away from it. Throughout his managerial career, Zidane has been praised frequently for a tactical flexibility that prioritises the capabilities of his players over a rigid pursuit of a signature style and a talent for uniting dressing rooms. Again, not a million miles away from a UN peacekeeper.

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Because ultimately, that is what this comes down to. United need a manager who can fix them in all departments. They need somebody who can identify their weaknesses, solve them, and still possess the wherewithal to not ruin the prospects of £73 million England international to the extent that he’s getting changed in a broom cupboard and spending his mealtimes eating Dairylea Lunchables with the youth academy. Zidane is in receipt of a footballing brain of monstrous proportions with a knack for personability to match.

And let’s face it, if you could appoint him as your manager, why the hell wouldn’t you?

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