Man U in limbo as uncertainty over sale affects Ten Hag’s planning

June 05, 2023
Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag

LONDON, England (AP):

Deep in the bowels of Wembley Stadium, Manchester United co-owner Avram Glazer strode past a group of reporters seeking an update -- in fact, just any news -- about the potential sale of the storied English club.

"Why are you not speaking to the fans?" came one shout.


United's disgruntled supporters want answers.

So, surely, does Erik ten Hag.

Speaking after their 2-1 loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup final, the United manager was relatively calm about his plans for this summer while the Glazer family weighs up whether to sell United or remain in place by selling a minority stake or take up other funding options.

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe have made declared bids for what could end up being the biggest-ever sale of a sports team, with the price possibly reaching up to $6 billion.

So, Ten Hag was asked, does he have two plans for the off-season: one if a sale goes through and one if it doesn't?

"I have only one plan, and that is to improve this club and improve this team," Ten Hag said. "I will fight for this, I will talk to the club about what we have to do for that, but also I have to work with my staff, with my players, to be better next season."

Pushed on how the sale affects his planning for next season, Ten Hag said: "At this moment, I don't want to discuss that. It's about finalising the season. We have to be quiet, analyse the season... set the right conclusions and take action."

This season has shown the amount of work needed for United, indeed any team, to catch up to City.

While the win at Wembley on Saturday turned out to be narrow, there was a clear gulf between the teams in the first all-Manchester FA Cup final, with only a contentious penalty and a late rally keeping United in touch with their dominant rivals.

In the league, City -- backed by the wealth of Abu Dhabi's ruling family -- won the title for the fifth time in six years and was 14 points ahead of third-place United.

With Pep Guardiola contracted to stay on for one more season, United and the rest of the league might just have to wait and hope City's fortunes dip once the Spanish coach leaves.

There's no doubt, however, that United is on the right track under Ten Hag, who has led them to two domestic cup finals -- winning the League Cup in February -- and back into the Champions League.

That didn't appear likely early in the season when United was losing 4-0 at Brentford and 6-3 at City.

"It's not about (closing) the gap in the summer, or getting players in," the Dutchman said. "We've been working all season, day by day, to develop the team, progress the team and I'm very proud from where we came from the start of this season.

"Remember Brentford, but also the Etihad. Now we showed today that our home win (United beat City 2-1 in January) was not a coincidence and today again; maybe on another day we could have won this game."

Ten Hag spoke of "huge decisions" and "major actions" at United in the off-season. He might have been talking about himself and his coaching staff, and not just the Glazers.

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