Jim Ratcliffe could give Liverpool what it should want as major Man Utd decision to be made

Jürgen Klopp and Erik ten Hag on the touchline before Manchester United vs Liverpool.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

It was one of the great mysteries of Liverpool's season that Jürgen Klopp's side faced Manchester United three times in all competitions and failed to come out on top once. Two draws and a defeat far from told the whole story.

Erik ten Hag ended the campaign with a trophy after his team beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, though the Red Devils finished the Premier League season in eighth. And as The Athletic reports that a look back at the year — and a decision on whether to part ways with the Dutchman — is to be undertaken with no call solidified and set in stone yet, the latter element of the 2023/24 review should probably hold more weight.

Prior to the victory at Wembley, The Guardian had reported that Manchester United had already made the decision to fire Ten Hag regardless of the result and the 54-year-old admitted he 'didn't know' whether that was his last game at the helm. It must be considerably harder to get rid of him now, though, and co-owner Jim Ratcliffe refused to comment on the situation post-match.

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"If they don't want me anymore, I go somewhere else and win trophies," Ten Hag boldly stated when asked about the situation himself. "That's what I've done my whole career."

That isn't 100 per cent correct — he won the Eredivisie three times and now has a Carabao Cup and an FA Cup to add to the collection, so he is hardly a world record holder in the silverware stakes — but it does give Manchester United some food for thought.

That most assumed the Old Trafford outfit would be swept aside at Wembley, though, is the element of the tale that should matter the most. It was a miracle that Manchester United avoided defeat against Liverpool in the quarter-finals and then almost collapsed despite having a 3-0 lead against Coventry City, requiring penalties and a close VAR call to progress.

The eighth-placed league finish points to a Manchester United team that is inconsistent and while it can turn up for some big occasions, the dismal defeats and the conceding of 20-plus chances on a weekly basis cannot be ignored. Ten Hag has won two trophies in two seasons, but his players still look incredibly under-coached.

Against Liverpool at Old Trafford earlier this season, there were acres of space for the Reds' midfielders to run into. Had Liverpool been more clinical, it could have been three goals up inside the first half an hour and completely out of sight. No game plan should rely on so much good fortune.

What Ten Hag has created is not a team that is capable of sustaining success but an expensively assembled side that is reliant on individuals (chiefly Bruno Fernandes) and a couple of outstanding young talents (Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho). A better coach — and Mauricio Pochettino is now out of work — would be able to get more from the same group.

What Ratcliffe has to decide is whether Ten Hag is the best option available, or whether an improvement from the Manchester United head coach would see the levels increase. It seems obvious that an upgrade should be on the cards, and that it would make a much bigger difference than, for instance, instructing admin staff that they can no longer work from home.

If Manchester United sticks with Ten Hag, there will be limitations to the levels it can reach next season. For Liverpool and the rest of the sides looking to lock down a place at the summit of the Premier League table, that would only be a good thing.

With a better coach and some sensible signings, it wouldn't take that much for the eighth-best team in the country to challenge seriously for the top four or even more again. If Ten Hag stays, though, Liverpool's advantage — despite recent head-to-heads — will remain intact.