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    Gareth Southgate-shaped cloud to hang over Erik ten Hag next season

    The specter of Southgate at Old Trafford will loom large at the start of next season

    We know Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos like Gareth Southgate . We also now know that Erik ten Hag will continue to play at Manchester United and will be rewarded with a new contract, which is expected to last for a further three years.

    What we don't know is how the next few weeks will go. This was achieved by Southgate, who confirmed his view that he would likely have to resign as manager if England did not win the European Championship.

    We also know that this view is not shared by the Football Association, which wants Southgate to stay and doesn't think it's as black and white a decision as winning the tournament to decide his future. In fact, they would be happy if he made it clear that he would sign a new agreement on top of his current contract, which expires on December 31.

    Southgate wants to stay. His dream is to take England to the 2026 World Cup as European champions. This will mean 10 years of rule. He will make his 96th England cap on Sunday, one ahead of Sir Bobby Robson. But if England fail to win the Euro final in Berlin on July 14, it is likely he will leave.

    If United were looking to hire him as they considered their options for potentially replacing Ten Hag as part of their review season, there was never any chance it could have been Southgate. Even if he was their overwhelming choice.

    Southgate would never have entered into negotiations. Never. He was, and remains, entirely focused on England and he would never forgive himself if he allowed his future to be distracted from the chance of winning a first trophy since 1966. Southgate understands and respects the responsibility of his job. One of his most vivid memories is the reaction of the crowd as the England team bus headed to the last Euro final at Wembley.

    Southgate also knows how this usually ends for England managers and he doesn't want the accusation of being distracted to be leveled at him, along with the stigma associated with it.

    But most intriguingly will be what happens if Southgate leaves. The 53-year-old is unlikely to even consider another job until the end of this year, when his FA contract expires. He will want to leave a gap between his departure and any new venture.

    He also knows that he, like previous England managers such as Robson, would have an easier time if his next job was overseas. It's a prospect that interests him as he has suggested he would one day want to be a club manager again. And he knows he may find it easier to do so away from the glare of English football and as a former national team manager.

    But what if Ten Hag doesn't achieve what Ineos and Manchester United think he is capable of once he has the full backing of their new sporting structure under Dan Ashworth when he eventually becomes sporting director and technical director Jason Wilcox?

    What if next season is unfortunately also a fight for Ten Hag and Southgate has left England and is therefore theoretically available?< /p>

    There are so many “what ifs” in these questions that it is a case of hypotheses getting out of control. But in approving Ten Hag and admiring his dedication to his role and the dignity and professionalism with which he conducted himself, there is also a clear understanding that United cannot endure another season like last year in the Premier League. League.

    No one wants Ten Hag to be without a job. He may have been a little lucky to remain in charge, but there were clear mitigations that may not be there next season. So if he has to fight again, he may find it difficult to see the campaign through to the end.

    That doesn't mean it will coincide with a move for Southgate. But Ineos has apparently decided that there is currently no better candidate than Ten Hag to lead United. This may change. Other managers may emerge and if Ten Hag doesn't change the situation, he won't be able to continue.

    United claim it is only because many expected them to sack Ten Hag that they didn't. mean that they should succumb to the so-called “reflex” reaction. There is logic and force in this, although the claim that the review took more than two weeks to complete was not unreasonable is less compelling. However, United believe they have come to the right result.

    As always, time will tell. Luck may be on Ten Hag's side, but he deserves this fortune. Now he has to prove himself fully and without excuses. Otherwise, the speculation will grow, and if Southgate is available, the specter will grow too – whether he wants it or not.

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