Manchester United decide to sack Erik ten Hag regardless of Cup final outcome

Manchester United have decided to sack Erik ten Hag after the FA Cup final against Manchester City.

In an echo of United parting company with Louis van Gaal despite winning the FA Cup in 2016, it is understood that even beating City at Wembley on Saturday will not save Ten Hag.

Related: Kobbie Mainoo: ‘When I try to go to the corner shop I get a bit more attention these days’

The ruthless decision to change manager will be the most significant move made by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his allies since Ineos agreed to take a minority stake in the club last December and assumed control of football operations. United, who appointed Ten Hag two years ago, have felt compelled to act after ending a fraught campaign eighth in the Premier League, their lowest finish since 1990.

The team’s struggles this season have caused faith in Ten Hag to dwindle. United will have a last shot at qualifying for Europe when they face City – causing an upset against the champions would earn a place in the Europa League – but the hierarchy do not want to make a decision based on one game.

The challenge for Ten Hag, who has said he has already met with Ratcliffe and the minority owner’s advisers to review the season, will be ensuring his players are not distracted by the noise around his position. For United, the focus will soon switch to picking a replacement for the former Ajax manager. They are considering Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna, England’s Gareth Southgate, Graham Potter and Brentford’s Thomas Frank.

The next manager will need to work in the new structure United are implementing. Ratcliffe’s close advisers include Sir Dave Brailsford, the acting chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc and the technical director Jason Wilcox. Omar Berrada is due to take over as chief executive, Dan Ashworth as sporting director.

Tuchel is regarded as the frontrunner but it is understood United have held exploratory talks with Pochettino. They have also spoken to representatives of McKenna, who has been targeted by Chelsea and Brighton.

Ten Hag has cut an embattled figure since the start of the season. There have been questions over the quality of his coaching, his tactics have been criticised and many of his signings have not worked out. Antony, the £86m winger, has been a huge disappointment since arriving from Ajax two years ago and Rasmus Højlund, the Denmark striker, has had a difficult season.

André Onana, the goalkeeper, has been erratic since joining from Inter last season and Casemiro, the Brazil midfielder, has struggled this season to keep up with the pace of English football. Injuries have meant that Mason Mount has barely featured since joining from Chelsea.

Ten Hag can point to the unavailability of many important players as a key factor in his inability to make his tactics work. Luke Shaw has missed most of the season at left-back and Harry Maguire has also been ruled out of the final. United have been forced to use Casemiro in central defence in recent weeks.

There have been many indignities this season. United finished bottom of their Champions League group, lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth and were thrashed 4-0 by Crystal Palace this month. The Cup, though, has brought some respite. United showed their quality with a 4-3 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals, although they followed that by blowing a 3-0 lead against Coventry City before beating the Championship team on penalties.

21 Apr 2022 Manchester United appoint Erik ten Hag as their new manager. The 52-year-old takes over from Ralf Rangnick on a three-year deal having impressed while in charge of Ajax.

13 Aug 2022 Ten Hag’s tenure begins with a 2-1 home defeat by Brighton and then, six days later, a 4-0 hammering at Brentford. “I asked them [the players] to take responsibility, that is what they didn’t do,” he says.

23 Nov 2022 The Dutchman wins his civil war with Cristiano Ronaldo, with United announcing the Portuguese has agreed to leave the club.

14 Jan 2023 Ten Hag secures his first derby triumph as United manager following a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Old Trafford. The result somewhat makes up for the 6-3 hammering United had suffered at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season.

26 Feb 2023 United beat Newcastle 2-0 at Wembley to win the Carabao Cup. It is the club’s first piece of silverware in six years.

5 Mar 2023 The feel-good factor is all but destroyed by a 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield. The visitors are incredibly bad in the second half, especially, leading to Ten Hag accusing his players of being “unprofessional”.

20 Apr 2023 United are beaten 3-0 by Sevilla in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final, exiting the competition 5-2 on aggregate.

3 Jun 2023 United’s league form is strong enough to see them finish third. They also manage to reach the FA Cup final but suffer Wembley heartbreak after being beaten 2-1 by Manchester City.

1 Nov 2023 United’s early-season form is patchy and well and truly hits the skids with back-to-back 3-0 home defeats, to Manchester City in the league and Newcastle in the Carabao Cup. “I am a fighter” insists Ten Hag after the latter.

12 Dec 2023 Having again lost 3-0 at Old Trafford, this time to Bournemouth, United go out of the Champions League in the group stages having won only one of their six games. Finishing bottom also means not dropping into the Europa League and therefore exiting Europe altogether.

23 Dec 2023 Sir Jim Ratcliffe buys a minority stake in United, the British billionaire spending just over £1bn to acquire 25% of the club and gain control of football operations.

18 Feb 2024 United begin the new year in decent form, with teenage midfielder Kobbie Mainoo consistently impressing having been given his first-team debut by Ten Hag in November. They go on a run of six wins in seven games.

17 Mar 2024 The undoubted high point of United’s season as they beat Liverpool 4-3 in an epic FA Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford.

4 Apr 2024 United lose 4-3 to Chelsea in extraordinary circumstances at Stamford Bridge. The visitors were leading 3-2 going into stoppage time only to see Cole Palmer score his second and third goals of the game, the latter coming on 100 minutes and 39 seconds, making it the latest winner in Premier League history. “That is unacceptable” admits Ten Hag.

21 Apr 2024 United beat Coventry to reach a second successive FA Cup final but it is arguably the low point of Ten Hag’s tenure given his side gave up a 3-0 lead to Championship opponents and ultimately required a penalty shootout to win.

23 Apr 2024 Ten Hag hits back at his critics in the media, labelling them a “disgrace” and “embarrassing” for their reaction to the narrow win over Coventry. “Top football is about results” he insists.

6 May 2024 United’s season reaches a new low after they are beaten 4-0 by Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. “It is clear and obvious. This is underperforming,” acknowledges Ten Hag.

24 May 2024 United have decided to sack Ten Hag regardless of how the FA Cup final goes.

Ten Hag has repeatedly fought his corner, even claiming United have been one of the most exciting teams in the league this season. He won the Carabao Cup and finished third last season. It seemed he was on the right track, even though his debut campaign also included a 7-0 defeat at Liverpool.

The task of reviving United since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 has been beyond all of the Scot’s successors. Ten Hag, who came in after Ralf Rangnick’s spell as interim, pointed to those lean times on Thursday. “So in the last 10 years not so many trophies in this club, but we have an opportunity to win two trophies in two years,” he said.

Ten Hag was asked whether he had talks planned with the hierarchy. “No, we already did and on Sunday I will go on holiday,” he said. “I think I deserve it.”

United are due to conduct a final review before making an announcement on Ten Hag’s future. Their debrief is likely to focus on the chaotic nature of their performances this season. United had a habit of squandering leads and conceding late goals and tended to allow opponents an astonishing number of shots. Ten Hag also clashed with Jadon Sancho, who will play in next Saturday’s Champions League final after joining Borussia Dortmund on loan.

On Friday Bruno Fernandes said he wanted to stay at United, provided the club’s ambitions match his. “I love to step out at Old Trafford more than anything in the world,” the captain wrote on The Players’ Tribune. “I don’t want to leave. This has always been my ultimate dream. I just want my expectations to fit with the expectations of the club. If you go talk to any fan, they will tell you the same thing.

“We want to compete for the league. We want to be playing Champions League football. We want to be in cup finals. That is the standard. That is what I want. That is what you all deserve.”