Man Utd step up manager search in response to Chelsea developments

Erik ten Hag at training

Manchester United have been forced to expedite their managerial contingency plans in the wake of Mauricio Pochettino’s departure from Chelsea with the two clubs holding an interest in some of the same targets.

Chelsea have narrowed their search for Pochettino’s successor to four coaches, with Enzo Maresca, Kieran McKenna, Thomas Frank and an unnamed candidate all making the club’s shortlist.

With Chelsea hoping to be in a position to make an appointment by the start of next month, if not earlier, as sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart work around the clock to secure a new manager, the situation has forced United’s hand to some extent.

United maintain that they have yet to make a final decision on the future of Erik ten Hag but his position appears increasingly untenable and it is understood that the club have been sounding out potential replacements in the event they sack the Dutchman after Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.

Like Chelsea, United are also believed to hold an interest in McKenna, their former first-team coach who has just led Ipswich Town into the Premier League after back to back promotions and is also interesting Brighton, and Brentford manager Frank. Informal discussions are thought to have been held with their representatives this week in addition to those of other potential targets including Thomas Tuchel and Pochettino himself.

Ten Hag sidestepped questions about his future at his press conference on Thursday ahead of the Cup final and the outcome of that game is not expected to determine the course of action United take.

Southgate and Potter have also been linked with United

Pochettino’s sudden availability has presented another option for United’s new kingpin Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos team who are now in control of the club’s football operations. The Argentine, who was in the running for the Old Trafford job when Ten Hag landed the post two years ago, has his admirers at United who note the work he did bringing through young players and developing a clear and successful style of play at Tottenham.

Like Tuchel, who is leaving Bayern Munich and is seriously interested in the United post, Pochettino also has experience of managing big clubs but the idea of appointing a young up-and-coming manager is also said to appeal to Ineos.

McKenna worked under Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford before being appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team coach. He left for Ipswich in December 2021.

Gareth Southgate, the England manager, and former Chelsea and Brighton manager Graham Potter have also been linked with United, who are keeping their options open but have already discounted a number of managers including Julian Nagelsmann.

Although Chelsea are working quickly and are aware they could soon face competition from United, their process is set to run into next week.

Telegraph Sport understands that Chelsea have dropped interest in Stuttgart’s Sebastian Hoeness and Girona’s Michel, which leaves a so-far-unknown fourth candidate in the race to become the next head coach.

Chelsea have made checks on all of their four candidates, but have not yet settled on a favourite ahead of further talks.