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'Win stabilises Man Utd season but Ten Hag future still unclear'

After successive defeats, Saturday’s 2-0 win over Everton is one that will stabilise Manchester United’s season at a time when the scrutiny on manager Erik ten Hag is intense.

First-half goals by Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford gave the Red Devils victory to ensure they avoided recording three successive Premier League losses for the first time since 2015.

Following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s assertion last month about the importance of reaching the Champions League, it has almost been taken as fact the Dutchman’s fate hinges on whether United qualify for next season’s competition or not.

That is not the reality, though.

With Ineos now in charge of football operations at Old Trafford – Sir Dave Brailsford has been a virtual ever-present at matches and is having a major input behind the scenes – a new structure is taking shape.

The impending arrival of Omar Berrada as chief executive in the summer is viewed as a key appointment given his vast experience with the City Football Group, both in terms of football operations in both the men’s and women’s sphere, and executing deals.

But Berrada will, at some point, be accompanied by Dan Ashworth. United are adamant they will not pay a suggested £20m fee for Newcastle’s sporting director but it is acknowledged that some kind of compensation deal is eventually likely to be struck for someone they view as, like Berrada, being the best in class.

Southampton’s director of football Jason Wilcox is also a target and while club sources have distanced themselves from Crystal Palace’s sporting director Dougie Freedman, the mere fact a link has been made suggests there is an additional appointment to come.

With Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc, a well-respected and well-connected official who has held senior positions at Juventus and Paris St-Germain, already part of the United football board, this will complete a behind-the-scenes picture that may well include John Murtough, who has come in for a huge amount of criticism around United’s recent recruitment.

United officials have sympathy for Murtough given he has been asked to execute deals, a job it was not envisaged he would have when he arrived in 2014, initially to work within the academy.

The upheaval behind the scenes is concrete proof Brailsford, and the rest of the Ineos team, do not feel the structures that previously existed were right for a sporting organisation of United’s stature.

And this is shaping their view around Ten Hag.

For, the reasoning goes, through David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and Ten Hag, United have failed under a huge amount of successful management experience. Common sense suggests there must be another reason for this lack of success other than just the manager, particularly as, under Van Gaal, Mourinho, Solskjaer and Ten Hag, United have regressed after initial success.

So, the question is being asked: Is it fair to judge Ten Hag until he is working under the right structures?

Whilst no decision has been made, it does at least leave open the possibility of the Dutchman remaining in position into next season, as he himself has suggested with his public statements.

There is also a secondary point which tends to get overlooked but is the reality for every Premier League club.

If they sack a manager, the compensation counts against their profit and sustainability figures, which in turn affects how much can be spent in other areas.

With Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham present at Old Trafford to watch his beloved Everton but also using the opportunity to speak to the media and talk up the possibility of a brand new stadium for United as part of a wider regeneration project, Ineos has set about altering what many feel is stagnation under the Glazer ownership, led by poor decisions from former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Ten Hag could be part of it.

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