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The manager who could be ‘even better’ than Arteta if he joins Man Utd

Written by on May 1, 2024

The second season for Erik ten Hag as Manchester United manager has been very disappointing, to say the least. It was a successful first term in charge for the Dutchman, who took his side to a Carabao Cup win, and a third-place finish in the Premier League.

However, this time around has been far more underwhelming for the Red Devils. They currently reside in sixth place in the Premier League, on 54 points, and are now mathematically out of the running for European football. Not only that, they crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage, and the 15 goals they conceded are the most by any Premier League side in the groups.

With such poor form, it has led to talk of manager Ten Hag getting sacked by United’s new owner, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who might well decide to move forward with a new face at the helm of the INEOS era.

Of course, this has led to plenty of speculation about who could get the job, should Ten Hag indeed get sacked at the end of the season. Several names have been banded around, including England manager Gareth Southgate, and Bayer manager Thomas Tuchel, who will be leaving the club in the summer.

However, one other name is floating around of late, who is currently managing in the Premier League and could well be the man to take over from Ten Hag.

Man Utd should look at appointing Premier League boss

The manager in question is Aston Villa boss Unai Emery, who has had a wonderful first full season at Villa Park. They are currently in fourth place, seven points clear of fifth place Tottenham, and have a Europa Conference League sem-final to look forward to.

The 52-year-old was appointed by Villa in October 2022, taking over from Steven Gerrard, who had a disastrous spell at the club. Last season, Emery dragged the club from relegation-threatened to Conference League qualification in a matter of months.

In April, Villa triggered a one-year contract extension clause in Emery’s contract, to keep the Spaniard at the club until 2027, with Bayern sniffing around and potentially looking at Emery as their next manager.

However, United might still need to approach Emery to take over at Old Trafford. Former United and Villa striker Dwight Yorke thinks that it would be a good appointment, saying in an interview this week that the Spaniard might “do even better than Erik ten Hag, Mikel Arteta or Jurgen Klopp”, should he get the United job.

Yorke further stated: “It won’t surprise me to see Emery’s name linked with the big clubs in the summer. He has a point to prove at the top clubs because of how his time ended at Arsenal.”

How Emery could work at Man Utd

Yorke’s quote certainly suggested that Emery’s time at Arsenal left a lot to be desired. Since he left Arsenal, Arteta has taken the team to new heights, playing his exciting and high-pressing 4-3-3 system which now sees them challenging for a title.

Emery, though, is famed for his 4-2-2-2 system at Villa, and has helped them to the brink of Champions League qualification. That would be a remarkable accomplishment when you consider where the Midlands side were upon Emery’s arrival.


It may not have gone well for him in north London but he has now proven himself as one of the best managers in the Premier League. Further boasting an impressive title haul that includes a Ligue 1 title and four Europa League trophies, he can certainly one-up Arteta when it comes to winning honours. Perhaps there might be some credence behind the idea that he’d take United further than Arsenal over the forthcoming years.

Champions League football would undeniably be a stellar achievement for Emery at Villa given they were a side threatened by relegation last season and it certainly feels like he needs to take the next step to fulfil his legacy as a legendary manager. Should United decide to sack Ten Hag this summer, Old Trafford could well be the place to go. After all, he has already proven he can steady a ship in deep decline. This could be the perfect project.


Having perfected the 4-2-2-2 system at Villa Park, he would perhaps look to implement that system at Old Trafford, too. United certainly have some players who would fit Emery’s Villa system well, although they would undoubtedly need to strengthen in a couple of areas of the side, too.

Kobbie Mainoo would be excellent under Emery, with the 19-year-old midfielder having superb ability in the first phase, thus being crucial in the build-up pattern the Spaniard employs, which involves triangles between the centre-back, full-back and midfielder on each side.

Not only that, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount would excel in the central role, in which the players essentially start as wingers, before tucking inside at two number 10s in possession and helping progress the ball through the middle of the pitch.


Finally, Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford could certainly work as the two centre-forwards in Emery’s system, who are tasked with drifting out wide to receive the ball and drive into the penalty box. This is something Rashford could do particularly well, as he plays his best football when receiving the ball out wide and driving into the penalty box.

One area United would need to strengthen is at centre-back, and they would have to target quick and agile players to fit into the high-line Emery employs at Villa. Statistically, Villa catch the most players offside per game in the Premier League, with 4.7 per game.


However, this also comes with the risk of opponents exploiting lots of space in behind if they beat the offside trap. The likes of Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof may well struggle to cope with the demands of this, so United should look to recruit at centre-back.

Certainly, Emery’s system is one of the best to watch in the Premier League this season. United’s lack of suitable centre-backs, plus depth needed in midfield, would mean they are not immediately ready should he take over at Old Trafford. With that being said, it could certainly be a shrewd appointment for the Red Devils.


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