Ten Hag also gets his own man...
Given all the debate, there are a few ways to read Erik ten Hag’s appointment, as well as the first steps immediately after it. You could say it’s a good thing that the new coach immediately got his way with his backroom stuff, as Manchester United allowed him to appoint former Sir Alex Ferguson assistant Steve McClaren. On the other hand, was it all that good that Manchester United were already resisting? It speaks to a big question over this regime and the medium-term prospects of the club, as to whether the Glazer hierarchy will free up some of the restraints and start looking at things anew. We won’t know that for some time. For the moment, for all the debate, there are a few things we do know. Ten Hag is a significant upgrade on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in terms of pure coaching. He will offer something this squad hasn’t had for some time, and Ralf Rangnick couldn’t really impose due to the specific circumstances. He will impose a tactical framework based on the most modern ideas, with good coaching. That alone should restore United to a superior level. Whether Ten Hag can take them back to the top, and other managers were better suited to that, is a much bigger question than any of it.
But what next for the other candidate?
One of a few reasons that United went for Ten Hag was because it was seen as a much easier deal to do than Mauricio Pochettino, but that could have changed - and rather quickly. There is increasing expectation Paris Saint-Germain will look to replace the Argentine in the summer, and the perceived subtext of his Wednesday press conference - where he stressed he has a contract for another season - was that it will cost to get rid of him. There would be a big pay-off. Pochettino has had quite an idiosyncratic career already. While he was the right man for Tottenham Hotspur at precisely the right time, his undeniable success at the club has inadvertently meant he has been a victim of bad timing ever since. It is like potential jobs have always became available at the wrong moment, like United in November. Even before that, it felt he had to take the PSG job because there was a danger he would be out of the elite level too long, but that is likely to leave him with a league title no one else actually values. It is why the debate about silverware has always been something of a red herring. The modern game is too economically stratified for that to mean much. It was a far, far greater feat to get 86 points at Spurs in a single season (a haul United have not got close to since Sir Alex Ferguson) than it was to win the French title. But it's possible that could come full circle. There could also be a potential job swap. PSG have their eyes on one of Pochettino’s successors at White Hart Lane…
Conte's own future in the air
Despite Tottenham Hotspur’s overall progress under Antonio Conte, his Thursday press conference - "I will try to stay" - reflected the widespread belief he is no more than “50/50” to continue past the summer. That is because the general feeling among his staff is that they are better than this. There had been fears among them that the residual dysfunction at Spurs could effectively “bring Conte down”, and he would have been unable to have a positive effect in a job for the first time as a top-class coach. Now, it’s obvious that Champions League qualification would be a success, but could also mean it’s a good time to draw the line. Spurs are attempting to get ahead of this by doing what they didn’t do for January, and getting ahead of the game with transfer business. It’s possible up to six signings could come, with Torino’s Gleison Bremer and Wilfried Singo, Hamburg’s Filip Kostic and an emotional return for Christian Eriksen among the more seriously considered options. More fanciful are potential moves for Laturo Martinez of Internazionale and, of course, Gareth Bale. The hope is they can get enough done to convince Conte of the promise of this project, but Champions League qualification alone is unlikely to be enough. Transfer business and other offers will be influential. A straight job swap could allow everyone to save face..
Drive to Survive model not yet set to thrive in football
As Formula One dominates discussion, not least in Premier League dressing rooms, many outside England’s top division have been struck by an idea. The huge revival in the motorsport’s popularity is almost singularly put down to the ‘Drive to Survive’ Netflix series, and the question going around so many other competitions is why they don’t do something similar. It is one surefire way to combat the overwhelming global popularity of the Premier League. Imagine what it could do for Serie A, or La Liga, or the Championship. There is one main issue, though. Clubs just wouldn’t dream of offering up that kind of access. They’d rather keep it all in-house, or go with the comparatively anodyne and safe offerings of Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing’ series, where nothing - indeed - is actually revealed. The only thing close has been Sunderland's documentary, but that was just one club, rather than an entire competition.
Takeover may yet see Chelsea leaders taken on
The Chelsea takeover could be done by next week, with the Todd Boehly consortium increasingly confident they will win the process. Director Marina Granovskaia and chairman Bruce Buck will be among those involved in deciding the club’s future and, while they are fully conscious of Chelsea's legacy, they have yet to decide on their own futures. The three remaining bidders are all interested in Granovskaia continuing, in particular, but she will assess once the decision is made. It is expected she will at least look after summer business, especially as there will be so much to sort out.
Passing on advice...
Bruno Fernandes, not for the first time, was the most vocal in the Manchester United dressing room after the humiliation at Anfield. He is the one who tends to deliver home truths most. Others have wondered why he now keeps trying the same wedged pass, so many times a game, even though it has been months since it actually came off.