Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag may have condemned himself to the sack with bold comment | Football | Sport

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Erik ten Hag is effectively on trial for his own job for the remainder of the season before the Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS era kicks into full gear this summer. The Manchester United manager’s back is already against the wall after a disastrous first half of the campaign, and he may have oversold his expectations in the coming months.

Ten Hag inspired confidence that he was the man to finally take the Red Devils out of their decade-long rut since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement last season.

The club’s third-place Premier League finish and Carabao Cup triumph marked a promising start to his reign, which has made the regression this term all the more impactful.

Ten Hag is now under mass scrutiny, intensified by the possibility that INEOS will be keen to get ruthless and appoint their own man in the dugout for their first full season in charge of football operations.

United’s best period of the season has eased the pressure, winning four matches in a row and staying unbeaten in six ahead of Sunday’s trip to Luton Town.

But the Old Trafford giants remain six points behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur and trail Aston Villa in fifth by five after winning 2-1 at Villa Park last weekend.

The relentless injury issues that have plagued Ten Hag’s have almost entirely vanished, with Lisandro Martinez and Mason Mount the only big-name stars sidelined.

And the Dutchman has claimed the club must now aim for a top-four finish at the very least to maintain the standards he has attempted to set.

“First of all, I think it’s too quick to say we have turned a corner. We are not there yet. We are still not in a position to say so,” Ten Hag explained.

“We are back in the race, but not in the position we want to be at this club – that is a minimum of the top four – so we have to catch up, and we are still doing that.

“But I do think that now we are going in the right direction. I was always convinced we would once the players were available.

“With this squad, I knew that with me and my coaching staff and players, and the togetherness, we have the quality to play for the top four.

“Of course, over the season, we had to prove it – but I was always convinced we would.”

If United’s momentum suddenly falls flat and the end of the season is disappointing, Ten Hag may have shot himself in the foot with his comments.

But there is optimism in the M16 air that his fortunes are changing in time for a crucial few months in his short-lived rebuild.

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