Manchester United: Erik ten Hag at risk of being a lame duck as rivals celebrate muddled decision

Erik ten Hag staying on as Manchester United head coach following a post-season review by the club will be welcomed by sections of the fanbase but also feels like good news for the rest of the Premier League.

Ten Hag was expected to be sacked before United's surprising FA Cup win over Manchester City, but is now set to hold talks over a contract extension, with his current deal due to expire at the end of next season.

While the 54-year-old deserves credit for masterminding the result which denied Pep Guardiola's side a double-double, he oversaw an historically shambolic campaign in the League and Europe, and there is little evidence to suggest he can lead United back to the top, at least without a massive squad overhaul.

The process by which United reached the decision also leaves a bad taste and suggests their sporting strategy remains as muddled as ever.

There is little evidence to suggest Ten Hag can lead United back to the top

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS were supposed to provide clarity to United's decision-making, but appear to have felt unable to follow through with their plan to dismiss Ten Hag based on one result, which hardly suggests a coherent long-term vision for the club.

The Dutchman, meanwhile, has been treated shabbily, left to stew for a fortnight since the triumph at Wembley while United explored other options.

Thomas Tuchel was interviewed for the post and Gareth Southgate openly coveted, while there was also interest in Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Frank and Graham Potter.

In the end, is it easy to assume now was simply not the right time to sack Ten Hag, considering the sentiment among large swathes of supporters after the FA Cup win and the stale state of the elite manager market.

Thomas Tuchel was last week interviewed for the job (AP)
Thomas Tuchel was last week interviewed for the job (AP)

In a year, however, Dan Ashworth should have extricated himself from Newcastle and joined United as INEOS's new sporting director, and will be well placed to lead a thorough managerial search.

Southgate, widely believed to be INEOS's top target, may have stepped down as England boss by then.

Even if he agrees a contract extension, Ten Hag is therefore in danger of going into next season as a lame-duck manager, the doubts over his suitability for the job lingering and never far from speculation about his future.

A United resurgence would have potentially been detrimental to the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham progressing, but another season of Ten Hag could mean more stasis at Old Trafford, which should be beneficial for their rivals.