Erik ten Hag’s position at Manchester United under the new ownership of Sir Jim Ratcliffe may not be entirely safe, with recent exploratory talks understood to have been held with two big-name managers.
Sources with a close understanding of the situation inside Man Utd have informed CaughtOffside that the club had some initial contact with both Julen Lopetegui and Antonio Conte to assess them as potential candidates in case they decide to replace Ten Hag at the end of the season.
There is not understood to be an immediate desire to part ways with Ten Hag, though the team’s form at times this season has led to some concern, and it may be that the Dutch tactician won’t continue at Old Trafford unless there is a big improvement in the second half of the campaign.
CaughtOffside understands that Lopetegui was recently approached and that he turned down the chance to take over as manager of Al Ittihad due to the fact that an opening at United could soon come about.
The Spanish tactician, formerly of Wolves, has been keen to manage in England again, with another Premier League job his priority for next season. Nottingham Forest had also been a vacancy that interested him at one point.
Conte, however, seems less straightforward for United as his preference is understood to be to remain in Italy closer to his family. The former Tottenham and Chelsea boss wouldn’t entirely rule out managing in the Premier League again, though, and as of now there is nothing agreed with AC Milan, despite some reports to the contrary.
Neither manager has yet entered into advanced talks with the Red Devils, but this could be a situation to keep a close eye on in the weeks and months ahead, especially if the team don’t show significant improvement in performances and results soon.
Conte’s track record of delivering silverware would no doubt be appealing to United after so many struggles to compete at the very highest level since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, while Lopetegui is also highly regarded in the game even if he doesn’t quite boast the same collection of winners’ medals as Conte and some other candidates who might end up being linked with jobs of this profile.