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Man United’s next manager – Four traits INEOS will be looking for



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The writing is on the wall for Erik ten Hag.

There seems to be an acceptance from everywhere that the Dutchman will not continue to occupy the Old Trafford hot seat once this current season is over, having not lived up to the expectations that his first season at Manchester United set.

New regimes often have their own man in mind, and names have been speculatively thrown around footballing spaces ever since INEOS‘ partial takeover – including sporting control – was confirmed.

Read More: Erik ten Hag told what he must do to “absolute disgrace” Manchester United player

Fans have drawn up their preferred candidates by this point, but I’m not here to talk about them. What I am here to talk about are the qualities that the next Manchester United manager needs to possess in order to survive here.

What has to be said, first and foremost, is that INEOS’ biggest and most important task is not to replace the manager. What they need to do more than anything is to change the culture of the club, which has gone missing ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Early structural appointments have set a good tone for Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his side, but there is now much more work to do. Once the structure is in place and the standard and vision have been set from the top, there needs to be a revamp of the squad. Not done by any manager, but by the club with a clear vision and plan in mind.

Until these things are fixed, no manager will be truly successful at Manchester United. But any new manager will play an important role in the culture shift that needs to happen at United, so below, I list a few vital qualities required of a Manchester United manager.

A strong character and personality

United’s next manager needs to have charisma, and this is arguably Erik ten Hag’s greatest flaw.

Football is a game played, watched, and surrounded by humans. Your own human qualities are key to impressing the owners and board, winning player buy-in, and bringing the fans on the side. All of these people care about football, a lot. If you want their support, you need to show them why and your character plays a bigger part in this than anything.

Julian Nagelsmann, who looks likely to return to former club Bayern Munich – which would rule him out of contention for the United job, once stated that coaching is just 30% tactics and 70% of it is social competence, talking about the importance of the psychological condition in players being right.

The majority of players clearly do still care for Erik ten Hag. Yes, there have been bumps, but the majority of the squad is completely on their side and has fought through thick and thin for him. Large sections of the fanbase would like to see INEOS back him. But his lack of charisma and general personality have been highlighted as concerns, and if he is to be replaced then the next manager needs to have a strong character.

A clear game model, but also the ability to adapt

You don’t survive at the top level of football without pragmatism.

It is crucial that the next manager has a clear game model that lines up with the vision set by the INEOS board for how they want Manchester United to play football, and they must believe in that game model and be willing to die by it.

Ideally, this game model should manage space well in and out of possession, keeping compact and working hard without the ball and giving players a clear idea of what they’re doing in possession whilst promoting bravery and creativity and consistently getting players in situations where they thrive.

But they need to be able to adapt within that game model to different opposition. This is essential, especially within the context of knockout games. If Manchester United want to return to the top of football, they will have to be able to play against and beat the best teams in football. This is going to require some level of adaptation.

A manager who can deploy a variety of tactical systems while maintaining a consistent idea of how they want to play football and understands how to respond to changes in the game state is essential to the club’s success on the field.

Clear communication skills

At the end of the day, if you can’t effectively communicate your ideas, then no matter how good they are, you’ll never succeed.

Some reports across Ten Hag’s tenure at the club have expressed concerns from players about how coaches communicate ideas in training, which aligns with some performances on the pitch. Tactical camera views have often shown Ten Hag frustrated at players in moments when instructions are not adhered to.

These communicative skills are also an extension of the first point, the ability to communicate well is key to how you come across on a human level to players, as well as to fans and the media at events such as press conferences.

An effective talker can captivate hearts and minds with ease, and at Manchester United, you have to do this very fast, or you’re fighting an uphill battle on one of football’s steepest hills against one of its most relentless armies.

Good player profiling skills

If I wanted to talk about how badly this has been done at Manchester United in recent years, an article isn’t enough. I could write a book.

Fans have seen too many talented players come to Old Trafford just to be completely misused and mismanaged in recent years, never truly working out as a result of this. It has contributed heavily to the culture of the club deteriorating as much as it has.

If Ten Hag loses his job, United’s next manager will have to know his players on a human level and what they are as footballers and manage them accordingly to get the best out of them.

A large part of this responsibility does lie with INEOS, though. They should—rightfully—be the ones handling recruitment at the club and need to sign players who fit the footballing vision and have all the qualities it takes to play for Manchester United. But once they are here, the manager has a responsibility to use them correctly and maximise them.

Erik ten Hag may well not be replaced, as unlikely as that looks currently. If he does remain, he could improve in some of these areas. However, if he is to be replaced, the next manager must have all of these qualities to a high standard; this cannot be negotiated.