Tactical Insights

Ratcliffe considering ex-Barcelona star as potential Manchester United manager

Roberto de Zerbi is not the only Italian manager on Manchester United’s post-Erik ten Hag wishlist with Bologna boss Thiago Motta reportedly also on the radar of the Premier League giants.

They do say there is rarely smoke without fire. And if the musings of the media are anything to go by, the ice may be cracking under Erik ten Hag’s feet.

Under pressure not only after successive Premier League defeats to Fulham and Man City but following a largely dismal campaign across the entire board – exiting the Champions League and the EFL Cup in humiliating fashion – reports of a change in the Manchester United dugout are arriving like an avalanche these days.

Atalanta BC v Bologna FC - Serie A TIM
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Manchester United linked with Thiago Motta

And if Graham Potter, or ESPN’s dismal claims Gareth Southgate or Thomas Frank could be targeted, feels a little, well, bland, then how’s this for something spicy?

According to TEAMtalk, Thiago Motta has been discussed ‘internally’ amongst Ratcliffe and the Man Unted board, presumably including Sir Dave Brailsford, Jean-Claude Blanc and new CEO Omar Berrada, although the latter cannot officially begin work until he completes his gardening leave.

Motta, the 41-year-old former Italy international, has made quite the name for himself over in Serie A. Like his compatriot and the similarly United-linked Roberto de Zerbi – now at Brighton after that stellar spell at Sassuolo – Motta’s free-flowing, tactically-rich football has earned him plenty of admirers both at home and abroad.

Erik ten Hag fighting for his future

A Champions League winner at Barcelona and under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, Motta shares more in common with Pep Guardiola than the Portuguese pragmatist.


His approach – refined after his days in charge of Genoa, Spezia and PSG’s under-19s – is built upon a platform of high-pressing, possession and a steadfast determination to pass out from the back. 

Genoa also have the third-youngest team in Serie A, Motta elevating the likes of Lewis Ferguson and the Man United-linked striker Joshua Zirkzee to all-new levels. His ability to develop young players in a clear, coherent and easy-on-the-eye approach is likely to appeal to Ineos, Ratcliffe and co seemingly keen on making Old Trafford home to some of Europe’s best up-and-coming talent.

Bologna are currently fourth in Serie A. The Rossoblu have never before featured in the Champions League but that could soon charge, with a four-point lead over Roma in fifth.

Whether Motta is still around to lead Bologna out onto the European stage, however, remains to be seen with Man United the latest high-profile club to reportedly show an interest. 

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