Manchester United face competition from two major European clubs for the services of Ajax manager Erik ten Hag, according to Dutch football expert Marcel van der Kraan.
United have spoken to Ten Hag as the Old Trafford club stepped up their search for a permanent manager.
Ralf Rangnick was handed the reins on an interim basis in November following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after nearly three years in charge.
United want to appoint his permanent successor before the summer and plan to speak to a number of candidates, and while Ten Hag has met with the Premier League club as part of that process, the club must convince the manager as much as Ten Hag needs to demonstrate his qualities to United.
“There are three major opportunities for Erik ten Hag,” Van der Kraan told Sky Sports.
“Manchester United is only one of them. I do not want to dampen the excitement in England but maybe United have not done all the work yet.
“Yes, they’ve had positive talks with Ten Hag but so have two other major clubs in Europe. These are clubs who play Champions League football and who have chances to win titles in their own country.
“One of those clubs is very concrete for Ten Hag, and I think that is on mainland Europe – not in England. I know for a fact that Ten Hag is very excited about that job too.”
The Dutchman, 52, has been at the helm at the Johan Cruyff Arena since 2017 following stints coaching Go Ahead Eagles, Bayern Munich II and Utrecht.
Ajax currently sit top of the Eredivisie standings as Ten Hag looks to win the league title for a third time during a reign that included a remarkable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.
The Amsterdam giants were eventually knocked out by a Tottenham side coached by Mauricio Pochettino, who has long been admired by United.
“If Manchester United want to get things going, they will have to speed things up and make things concrete,” Van der Kraan added. “They will have to put a contract out to him because I think there’s a real danger it could become too late for him.
“For Ten Hag, there may be the consideration of the graveyard Manchester United has been for managers.
“Not everything during his career has gone well for United when you see how Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all failed and seen their reputations damaged.
“It needs some more convincing from United.”
Pochettino is currently managing Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain but his position is under scrutiny following their Champions League last-16 exit to Real Madrid.
Spain boss Luis Enrique and Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui have also been linked with the vacant post at Old Trafford, with Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel reportedly no longer under consideration.
Analysis: Sizeable leap for Ten Hag
Sky Sports News’ senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
Erik ten Hag having a formal interview with Manchester United will come as no surprise given his status as one of the most progressive coaches in Europe, and his long links to their managerial vacancy.
The 52-year-old has had admirers at Old Trafford stretching back to 2018/19, when his Ajax side knocked out Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, before then stunning Juventus and only being denied a place in the final after Lucas Moura’s last-minute goal for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Ten Hag is a popular choice to take charge at Old Trafford and represents what is seen as a “fresh, exciting future”, although there is an acceptance risk involved as it would be a sizeable leap for him.
The expectations, global glare placed on United, and level of competition at the top end of the Premier League is like nothing he would have previously experienced.
Ten Hag was interviewed by Spurs as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho last summer, but they passed on the opportunity citing a lack of “charisma”.
The last highly successful Ajax coach to move to England’s top flight – via Inter – was Frank de Boer, who lasted just 77 days at Crystal Palace.
Being granted an audience with Ten Hag was made easy by United’s smooth relationship with the Dutch club.
Speaking to Pochettino, the other strong candidate, would not be as simple with Paris Saint-Germain not as obliging.
United’s insistence that there is “no early favorite” for the role, and that they are remaining open-minded, will not water down the feeling that Ten Hag is their man given the public nature of this development.
Both he and Pochettino are under contract at their clubs until June 2023, so compensation would be involved.
Julen Lopetegui and Luis Enrique are the other two men on the shortlist and the club state their desire is to follow the process with all candidates. United are eager to avoid the errors that have led to them searching for a fifth permanent manager in nine years.
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