Man Utd fans must lower their expectations and forget about Europe or blockbuster transfers to give the next manager a chance

THE COUNTDOWN continues as Manchester United appoint the next new manager.

There are just nine games left in a campaign that most Old Trafford fans will probably consider the most miserable to date since Fergie ended his storied career nine years ago.

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Ten Hag is the favorite to be named Man Utd managerCredit: Getty

Of course, there will be renewed optimism when the next man arrives and the favorite to do so is Erik ten Hag.

There has always been such hope since David Moyes took over in the summer of 2013.

And of course Ten Hag knows how to build a team and he knows how to make it work as he proved with Ajax after learning at the feet of Pep Guardiola for two years as manager of Bayern’s B team. Munich.

The Dutchman has a CV that will have impressed those in the Manchester United hierarchy who interviewed him for Ralf Rangnick’s replacement job.

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Rangnick will step upstairs to take on his pre-established role as a consultant and he was a key driver in Ajax’s pursuit of the head coach ahead of Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino was also reportedly interviewed but may have ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time with PSG.

Just a few weeks ago, the former Tottenham Hotspur boss was seen as a certainty to become the fifth full-time boss since Sir Alex’s retirement – tasked with bringing back the good times at Old Trafford.

Yet whoever sits in the hot seat next, one thing is clear: short-term expectations must be low and given time to reorganize, restructure and reinvent a club that has not only lost its way, but it’s the soul.

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The idea that Champions League football has to be staged at the Theater of Dreams year after year has to be dropped to begin with.

United fans have to learn to live with the reality that just throwing money at the problem has proven to be the wrong philosophy.

So are the owners and senior management of the club – although they are continually on the hunt for the next big prize.

Harry Maguire cost a world record for a centre-back £80m and if anyone illustrates how spending big bucks often doesn’t work, it’s him.

England fans who booed him in the 3-0 win over Ivory Coast were rightly shamed by Three Lions head coach Gareth Southgate and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

But the fact is that Maguire has not become the kingpin of the Old Trafford defense that he was made out to be – although he is just one example of how money is no cure – at all.

Jadon Sancho cost £70million last summer but often struggled to display his undoubted attacking talents.

Raphael Varane, at £34m, looked like a decent buy, but he’s spent half his time since joining Real Madrid battling injuries because his body can’t handle the workload of the intensity First.

RONALDO FAILED

Cristiano Ronaldo’s romantic comeback has indeed failed.

Admittedly, he is their top scorer with 18 goals and netted a hat-trick in the 3-2 triumph over Spurs as he continued to break his goalscoring records.

But where was he as Atletico Madrid won 1-0 four days later to knock United out of the Champions League?

And with a salary of £495,000 a week?

Edinson Cavani is also on the fortunes.

Despite arriving free, United have always been a club too far for the veteran striker who has been on gardening leave for most of the season and is again injured.

Paul Pogba cost £89m but he never repaid that club-record outlay, sometimes through no fault of his own – and will be gone for free this summer.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka cost £50million but is the most average right winger in Europe.

Who among the United faithful would miss Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof who cost £61million between them?

Now United are fielding Declan Rice from West Ham for at least £100m and to give him credit, his technical ability suggests he will at least bring something to the table.

TEN HAG HAS IDENTIFICATIONS

But United are at ground zero and time needs to be spent building a whole new structure.

If it’s going to be Ten Hag, he’s at least shown he has the ability.

And not for a lot of money either.

Few clubs in Europe have a better reputation for development than Ajax.

When they came within seconds of the Champions League final in 2019, three of that team’s stars were Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and a certain Donny van de Beek – who, at £40million, would become another United flop.

They were all homegrown talent – like Ferguson coming off the treadmill as he won 13 Prem titles and two Champions League trophies.

But Ten Hag was also smart in that he added experience to his team and for very little money.

He finished four years without the title in 2018/19, won it again in 2020/21 and Ajax enters two clean sheets at the top this weekend after being co-leaders in 2019-20 before Covid interrupt the season.

In 2018, Ten Hag signed Daley Blind – who was never better than a moderate at United – and Dusan Tadic, two players who are now 32 and 33 respectively.

In 2020 Davy Klaassen, a misfit midfielder at Everton, arrived and was followed last year by Steven Berghuis, joining fierce rivals Feyenoord at the age of 29.

Berghuis, Tadic and Blind all started the 3-2 victory over Feyenoord before the international break.

Alongside them were Jurrien Timber (20), Noussair Mazraoui (24), Lisandro Martinez (24), Edson Alvarez (24), Ryan Gravenberch (19) and Antony (22).

They have worked their way up and are now getting the last part of their education by learning from older chefs.

Unlike United, they will play in the Champions League again next season.

In time, if Ten Hag is appointed, he has the qualifications to turn his Dutch revival into an Old Trafford revival.

But without that time – and remember it took Jurgen Klopp three-and-a-half years to win his first trophy with Liverpool – he, or Pochettino for that matter, might find it impossible to restore the former glory days at Old Trafford. .

Money didn’t buy love for Ferguson’s predecessors.

Meg and Harry
The former director

The next man through the door shouldn’t feel like he has to stall either.

If so, this clock will already count down to another failure.

Man Utd could be set for a huge squad overhaul this summer

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Man Utd could be set for a huge squad overhaul this summerCredit: Reuters

Mary I. Bruner