Manchester United have accidentally leaked two clues that reveal Erik ten Hag decision

-Credit: (Image: 2024 Manchester United FC)
-Credit: (Image: 2024 Manchester United FC)

The similarities between Louis van Gaal in 2016 and Erik ten Hag in 2024 are clear to see.

There has been some awful football in the build-up to the FA Cup final, a string of disappointing results and headlines linking other managers with the biggest job at Old Trafford.

Manchester United stayed silent before Van Gaal was sacked and their silence has been telling in the weeks leading up to this season's FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Although it wouldn't have taken much for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to have given Ten Hag a vote of confidence in public and to confirm the Dutchman will remain in charge next season, there's been tumbleweed instead and the silence has suggested a change is being considered.

ALSO READ: Ratcliffe and INEOS might be about to make their first mistake

ALSO READ: Gibraltar international signs pro contract with United

Van Gaal didn't receive the backing of United before the FA Cup final in 2016 and reports indicating he would be sacked were rife - and were subsequently proved to be correct.

It would be a shock if a change hadn't been weighed up. United have spectacularly regressed this season, crashing out of Europe before Christmas and finishing eighth in the Premier League, and Ten Hag has ultimately been responsible for a mostly joyless campaign.

The FA Cup final is an opportunity to salvage something from a bleak season, but INEOS are savvy operators and won't base their Ten Hag decision on one game of football.

There are months of evidence to consider and it doesn't bode well for Ten Hag, who enjoyed an excellent first year but has overseen new, embarrassing lows this term.

INEOS had done well to keep their plan for Ten Hag under wraps, but it's emerged in the last few days that contact has been made with Kieran McKenna's representatives.

McKenna is regarded as one of football's most exciting young coaches and secured successive promotions with Ipswich, leading them to the Premier League in under three years.

The 37-year-old was appointed United's Under-18 manager in 2016 before being promoted by Jose Mourinho to the first-team coaching staff. He was later retained by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and helped the transition to interim manager Ralf Rangnick before joining Ipswich.

It's understood McKenna would be open to taking the United job but he's also being watched by Brighton and Chelsea, who are in the market for new managers.

The news that United have an interest in McKenna emerging just a few days before the FA Cup final is not ideal, as it's an unwelcome distraction ahead of the biggest game of the season, but it feels like INEOS' hand was forced after Mauricio Pochettino's departure from Chelsea.

The managerial merry-go-round has begun ahead of the summer transfer window and United were forced to act due to Brighton and Chelsea showing an interest in McKenna.

Whether the interest in McKenna develops remains to be seen, but the elephant in the room is you don't hold talks with another manager if you're not considering sacking Ten Hag.

Unfortunately, Ten Hag has felt like a dead man walking for a while now and United not publicly backing him, combined with talks with another manager, points toward his exit.

Some fans want Ten Hag to be sacked and others want him to stay. Regardless of their stance on his future, they will all be behind United in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Just like before the FA Cup final in 2016, it's been a shame to see heavy reports linking United with another manager in the days building up to the fixture, but the industry is ruthless and it seems inevitable the white smoke will emerge from Old Trafford not long after the game.

There is a sense of regret over how Van Gaal was sacked and Ten Hag deserves a more dignified farewell if/when the curtain is brought down on his tenure.