Will Man United hire Graham Potter? Chelsea record, tactics, latest rumours on possible next Red Devils manager

On December 18, it will be exactly five years since Manchester United sacked Jose Mourinho as manager, the Portuguese coach paying the price for a poor run of performances culminating in a one-sided defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.

On December 17, United head to their fierce rivals after a wretched first few months of the season, with manager Erik ten Hag under increasing pressure following 12 losses in 24 games. Like Mourinho, a bad defeat away to Liverpool could prove the final straw.

The atmosphere at United under Ten Hag has certainly not become as toxic as it did in the final weeks of Mourinho’s reign, and the Dutchman still has the backing of a large number of fans, but there is already speculation that he could be removed as manager. Sir Jim Ratcliffe is poised to become a minority investor in the club and take control of sporting operations, meaning Ten Hag’s future will remain unclear regardless of the result at Anfield.

One of the main candidates linked to the job is Graham Potter, whose most recent Premier League position at Chelsea went badly wrong. Could he really be the man to take another big-spending, poorly organised football club in the right direction?

The Sporting News looks at the latest news and rumours regarding Potter, his record at Chelsea, and whether his tactical approach could be right for United.

MORE: How Man United’s worst EVER Champions League group stage played out

Will Man United hire Graham Potter? Latest news, rumours

On December 13, The Sun reported that Potter was Ratcliffe’s preferred choice as the next permanent Manchester United manager should he decide to sack Ten Hag.

The report claimed Ratcliffe has already met with the 48-year-old Englishman and is “a huge fan” of his methods, having previously tried to get him to take over at Ligue 1 club Nice, which the billionaire also controls.

The following day, Sky Sports backed up the suggestion that Potter would be one of the top candidates for the United manager job should Ten Hag be dismissed. However, Sky’s Rob Dorsett made it clear that no such decision about the incumbent had been made, with the club’s present hierarchy having “no plans” to fire the former Ajax coach.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag

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Graham Potter Chelsea record

Potter was appointed Chelsea manager on September 8, 2022, signing a five-year contract as a replacement for Thomas Tuchel. Just under seven months later, on April 2, 2023, he was sacked.

Having not taken a job since — he reportedly turned down an approach from Stoke City recently — Potter has not yet been able to prove his performance at Chelsea was a mere blip on an otherwise positive managerial resume. It’s also important to highlight that the Englishman was dealt an extremely difficult hand, forced to take over a ludicrously expensive group of players thrust together by an American ownership group that had little obvious plan when it came to constructing the squad. That might sound familiar to United fans, too.

Even within that context, though, his time at Stamford Bridge does not make for pretty reading. Under Potter, Chelsea lost 11 and won only 12 of 31 games in all competitions. The Blues were 11th in the league table when he left and his points-per-game average of 1.27 was the joint-lowest among Chelsea managers in the Premier League era.

Of course, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Potter was a resounding success in his first Premier League job at Brighton & Hove Albion. There was some trepidation around his appointment in May 2019 given his experience amounted largely to a good spell with Ostersund in Sweden, but the way he developed Brighton’s attractive, positive style of football — built upon in the past year or so by Roberto De Zerbi — gained him many admirers.

He took Brighton to the highest league finish in their history — ninth place in the top tier in 2021/22 — with a record haul of 51 points. On the first day of 2022/23, Potter became the first Brighton manager to win at Old Trafford as the Seagulls claimed a 2-1 victory in Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge of the Red Devils.

Graham Potter tactics, style of play

One of the reasons Chelsea hired Potter was because of the attractive, expansive style of football he cultivated at Brighton, and it stands to reason that this is one of the things that appeals to Ratcliffe.

Brighton were a proactive team under Potter, committing to a high press even against tough opponents. Between August 2021 and September 8, 2022, Brighton averaged 9.8 high turnovers in the Premier League — a figure only bettered by Liverpool (11.4) and Manchester City (9.9).

In 2021/22, Brighton scored 42 goals in 38 Premier League games — a club record — and conceded fewer goals than the four teams directly above them in the standings: Leicester City, West Ham, Man United, and Arsenal. But they still ended up on -2 goal difference, which pointed to problems that would quickly become apparent at Chelsea: namely, that Potter’s teams don’t quite score enough goals.

In Potter’s seven months in charge, Chelsea scored 21 league goals from an expected goals (xG) figure of 28.4. In other words, they should reasonably have expected to score at least another seven goals based on the quality of chances they created in that time. That differential of -7.4 was the worst in the division.

What became a familiar issue was laid bare in the 2-0 home loss to Aston Villa that brought Potter’s time in charge to an end: Chelsea had 69 percent of the possession, 27 shots, eight on target and 2.09xG, yet lost the game. Given they had spent roughly $600 million on signings in the Boehly ownership era, plus around $24m to land the manager from Brighton, Chelsea decided they were not getting enough return on their investment.

Ten Hag is facing similar criticisms at United: a team that struggles to score goals, concedes them far too easily, and cost a staggering amount of money to assemble. Perhaps his experience at Chelsea makes Potter a good fit for such a challenge. Time, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s fandom, will tell.

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