Ten Hag’s Headache

Finally, some precious downtime for Manchester United’s weary players.

The six days between their 1-0 defeat at West Ham on Sunday night and Saturday’s home fixture against Wolves is their longest amount of time between matches since Christmas.

This is also United’s first blank midweek since September in what has been an extreme season of 57 games and counting.

While Erik Ten Hag would have relished the challenge of facing Juventus in the Europa League semi-finals, the pause in the relentless schedule is merciful and he granted his squad two days off.

Jurgen Klopp

There have been many worrying signs of late that United don’t have much left in the tank. The warning light is about to flash if it isn’t already and while Ten Hag insists “tiredness is in your head”, his players are clearly running on fumes.

But the manager’s head will have been whirring all week because United suddenly find themselves in an uncomfortable position when it comes to securing Champions League football next season.

The back-to-back losses to Brighton and West Ham, plus the surrender of a two-goal lead at Tottenham before that, leaves them nervously looking over their shoulder at Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have won six straight games and sit just a point off United in fourth. While United retain a game in hand, their stuttering form means nothing is guaranteed.

There’s an awful lot riding on this and it puts pressure on the Wolves game when really there should have been none.

Firstly, it would be horrific for United if their bitter rivals Liverpool stole their Champions League spot for next season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side, by their recent standards, have endured a woeful season and don’t deserve to make Europe’s top competition. But they have belatedly hit their stride at the perfect time.

Then there is the perception of Ten Hag’s first season in charge at Old Trafford. A long-overdue trophy in the Carabao Cup, potentially another with the FA Cup and a top-four finish would be viewed as a very good return.

A trophy but a return ticket to the Europa League next season, especially from the position of strength inside the top four United were in a few weeks ago, would be a failure. The manager will understand this.

Finances also come into the equation. Would United’s summer transfer budget be slashed if they failed to make the lucrative Champions League again?

There have already been reports this week that Ten Hag will only get £100 million to spend in the summer due to Financial Fair Play limitations. Would that be squeezed even further? Would more players have to be sold to raise funds?

Would Harry Kane, Declan Rice or any other top class summer target want to play Thursday night football? Would United be able to afford them any more?

Finishing outside the top four is unlikely to affect the takeover — with Sir Jim Ratcliffe apparently the Glazers’ preferred bidder over Qatar because he’ll keep them inside the tent — but it wouldn’t be a great starting point for new ownership. – dailymailonline.

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