Man Utd boss Ten Hag set to fail Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s first mission | Football | Sport


Manchester United face failure in Sir Jim Ratcliffe‘s first major mission on the pitch during his ownership. Ratcliffe’s purchase of a 25 per cent stake in United was approved last month, the British billionaire paying £1bn and his INEOS Group taking control of the footballing operations.

Ratcliffe immediately set about overhauling a failing structure at Old Trafford. Omar Berrada will become the club’s new CEO in the summer after being poached from his role as chief football operations officer at Manchester City.

United also want Newcastle’s Dan Ashworth in as a new sporting director. In addition, Southampton’s current director of football Jason Wilcox is being eyed to come in and work with Ashworth and Berrada as they eye several top-tier appointments to completely transform the club’s set-up.

But in addition to the organisational issues at United, Ratcliffe admitted there is a short-term problem too. He insisted it would be hugely beneficial to qualify for next season’s Champions League – to help comply with the sport’s strict financial regulations.

The 72-year-old told BBC Sport: “We’ve got a short term issue. We really, really want to get into the Champions League next year because it’s quite important for FFP. But the real challenge is, it’s a two to three season challenge to get the organisation and environment right to produce the right results on the pitch.

“Our focus is absolutely performance on the field, winning football matches. But the first thing is the organisation, the structure of it needs to be correct. You need the right design. You need to populate the organisation with people who are best in class, the top people at that particular task in the world.”

But while the long-term health of the club is improving day by day, the short-term goal of Champions League qualification is looking more and more unlikely to be achieved. Since Ratcliffe’s interview with the BBC, United have lost both of their Premier League matches – a 2-1 reverse at home to Fulham and a 3-1 defeat at Man City.

Erik ten Hag is at serious risk of losing his job at the end of the season when INEOS plan to assess his future, as was always the plan. United have lost 11 of 27 league matches this term and have scored just 37 goals while conceding 39, leaving them with a -2 goal difference (GD). They have never before finished a Premier League season with a minus GD.

Fourth-placed Aston Villa are 11 points clear of United, who sit sixth. While fifth-placed Tottenham are only six points away, the north Londoners – who could be in next season’s Champions League courtesy of the new UEFA European Performance Spots – also have a game in hand.

United still have to face leaders Liverpool, title hopefuls Arsenal, plus Chelsea and Newcastle – both more than capable of beating the Red Devils – before the end of the season. Ten Hag’s side will need to win almost all of their remaining 11 matches to stand a chance of a top-five finish.

At their current points per game average, United stand to finish on 62 points. Only twice in the last 13 seasons – 2019-20 (Leicester) and 2010-11 (Tottenham) – has that tally been good enough to finish as high as fifth.

Ten Hag surely requires victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup at Old Trafford later this month to keep his job. But cup glory will not help Ratcliffe’s ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League, with United needing a top-five finish for that. It would take a remarkable end to the season for Ten Hag’s team to achieve such an objective.

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