Southampton’s third defeat in nine days, at home to Watford on Sunday, comes amid cooling speculation linking Ralf Hasenhuttl with the soon-to-be vacant Manchester United role.
Despite being openly vocal in his criticism of the United players’ defensive work rate, after Southampton held United in a 1-1 stalemate at Old Trafford in February, Hasenhuttl remains in the running behind clear favourites: PSG boss, Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax manager, Erik ten Hag.
Hasenhuttl favours a high pressing game at Southampton, which may not complement the current squad at United. Whilst the Austrian may have been able to inspire a high level of industry from his south coast team, demanding more tracking back and effort from the likes of Pogba, Fernandez and Rashford at Old Trafford might well be met with some bitterness. United would do better to look elsewhere.
Erik ten Hag may be a better fit for United at this time. Favouring an attacking style with wide players in a 4-3-3 formation, ten Hag is ideally placed to build on the work that Rangnick has started. Given the riches that United have in wide positions, with Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga, the Dutchman will be confident that he can replicate his good work at Ajax.
Following an embarrassing capitulation at the hands of Real Madrid in the European Champions League, last week, Mauricio Pochettino seems the most likely of the three managers to be out of a job and available in the Summer. PSG already appear to be lining up potential replacements, with Zinedine Zidane apparently topping the Parisienne’s shortlist. Pochettino is now the clear favourite with the bookies to take over at Old Trafford.
Whatever happens in the coming months, it is imperative that United make the right appointment. With nothing left to play for this season and being under real threat of missing out on next year’s Champions League, the rebuilding must start immediately.
Going out of the Champions League tonight will have hurt United fans. With City and Liverpool progressing to the last eight and Chelsea on the brink of going through too, United are slipping quickly down the pecking order of English clubs. Add to all this the sharp improvement of Arsenal under Arteta, Conte’s no-nonsense approach to improving Spurs, and Newcastle’s increasingly deep pockets; it is wholly conceivable that Manchester United could finish outside of the top seven next season, let alone be competing for the top four!
Ralf Hasenhuttl is far below the calibre required of a Manchester United manager. Southampton are a reasonably effective, yet one dimensional team under him, and that is all.
Mauricio Pochettino seems to be experiencing the same challenges at PSG that might face him if he was appointed United manager: ill-discipline, morose behaviour, and sub-par performances from high profile players. That would at least stand him in good stead.
Erik ten Hag is untested in the Premier League and may be out of his depth at Manchester United. Whilst his approach might be suited to the current squad, he is a relative unknown to most English football fans.
Perhaps, if United were truly serious about moving the club in the right direction, Diego Simeone, Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta would be at the top of their shortlist?