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Who will be the Next United Manager?

Added by Philip Meese on 19 Dec 2018 20:16

A look at the merits of the potential candidates to take over the Old Trafford hotseat next summer.

By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

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José Mourinho was sacked by Manchester United on Tuesday, after two and a half years in charge. A move that seemed to make sense when he was appointed went sour very quickly this season. After a lot of initial promise, including winning the Europa League, his position this season quickly became untenable.

Even before Mourinho was sacked, there was speculation mounting about his successor. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been appointed as caretaker until the end of the season, but who will take up the role permanently? Ultimate United assesses the candidates who are likely to be in the frame, and the pros and cons of each one.

Mauricio Pochettino

The Tottenham manager is apparently Ed Woodward’s favoured choice for the role, and a clear favourite with most bookmakers. He would no doubt be a popular choice with the Stretford End faithful, due to the attacking football he plays which has been lacking at Old Trafford for years. The entertainment factor has been so low at United over the last half decade that even the fact he has yet to win a major trophy wouldn’t overly concern the fans. They just want to go and watch a match without being bored to tears.

The real issue here would be prising the Argentine away from North London. Daniel Levy is known to be a tough negotiator and would be reluctant to lose him. It would cost United a lot of money, somewhere in the region of £40m to bring him to United.

Zinedine Zidane

One of the greatest players of his generation, a man who won everything as a player. His short managerial career has so far seen him transfer that winning mentality to the dugout. In his thirty-month spell at Real Madrid, he won three Champions League trophies in a row and one La Liga title. His departure from the Bernabéu was met with sorrow by the players, all of whom enjoyed playing under the French legend. United’s dressing room could certainly do with that kind of solidarity right now. He is also rumoured to be learning English, hence reports linking him to take over in the summer rather than immediately.

One concern is that despite his achievements in Madrid, the first manager to retain the European Cup since it was rebranded as the Champions League has never taken charge of a club in the state United currently finds itself in. At Real he had players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modrić, and a better squad than most of Europe. At United he would be walking into a dressing room which features a mix of potentially world class, but underachieving players combined with those that are either past their best or were never good enough to wear the shirt in the first place. Manchester United needs rebuilding, from the ground upwards, and Zidane has no experience of doing that.

Laurent Blanc

A former United player who has so far had a successful managerial career and is currently available. He came to Old Trafford at the back end of his playing career and retired after lifting the Premier League trophy in his second season. Since hanging up his boots, Blanc has won Ligue 1 with both Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain as well as taking France to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. His teams are known for playing exciting and attacking football which would be well received by United’s fans.

The only real issue with appointing Blanc would be that all of the trophies he has won were achieved in his homeland, mainly with PSG who can outspend every other club in the division. He has no experience of management in a league as competitive as England. While this has not hindered the likes of Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola, the fact that he has never managed in one of the top three or four leagues in Europe may count against him.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

The United legend was announced this morning as the man to take charge for the rest of the season this morning. This has led to much excitement among the fans, as the Norwegian is a universally loved figure by all associated with the club. It does seem as though this will only be a temporary appointment, but should he drastically improve United’s fortunes over the next six months, Woodward might have a decision to make. The one thing Solskjær has here is an opportunity to impress if he has any designs on becoming the permanent manager.

What counts against him in some people’s eye is how his one taste of Premier League management went sour. Midway through the 2013-14 season, Solskjær replaced Malky Mackay at Cardiff City but was unable to stop them going down. This should not detract from the fact that the job was a poisoned chalice to start with, as the club were already in the relegation zone with a squad that had received no serious investment after being promoted.

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Michael Carrick

Following a 12-year playing spell at Old Trafford, Carrick retired at the end of last season to join Mourinho’s coaching staff. Following the Portuguese manager’s sacking, the United legend took over training while the club sorted out appointing Solskjær to take charge for the rest of the season. Carrick knows what is expected of a United team, having served many years under Sir Alex Ferguson, and would be a popular choice with the players according to reports.

The potential problem with appointing the club legend is that he is less than six months into his coaching career. He has no experience at any level of management and to put him in charge of England’s biggest club, a huge challenge for even an experienced manager, would be asking a lot.

Roberto Martínez

The former Wigan and Everton manager’s stock has never been higher, after leading Belgium to 3rd place at the World Cup in the summer. He has plenty of experience in the Premier League, and even an F.A. Cup win on his C.V. The one box he ticks most of all is that his sides play fluid attacking football, something the fans have been craving since Ferguson left. He also showed he has tactical nous, with his side 2-0 down to Japan an inspired double substitution saw his side scored three goals in just over twenty minutes to win the game.

The main problem with appointing the Spanish manager is that he seems to be very naïve defensively, something that was shown in his time at Everton. He inherited a good defence from David Moyes at Goodison Park, which provided a solid base for his first season. When it came to replace them, he struggled. Given that United’s biggest problems this season have come from the back, Martínez probably wouldn’t the best appointment to sort them out.

Leonardo Jardim

The Portuguese manager has been tipped to land one Europe’s big jobs soon following his departure from Monaco in the summer. In 2016-17, he overcame the riches of PSG to claim the Monte Carlo club’s first Ligue 1 title in 17 years, playing some superb football. It was under Jardim that Anthony Martial showed the promise that persuaded United to sign him.

As is the case with Blanc, the risk would be the fact that Jardim has never managed in any of the top leagues. His other achievements have come with Olympiakos in Greece and Beira-Mar in Portugal, which may count against him when Woodward eventually appoints Mourinho’s permanent successor.

Massimiliano Allegri

One of the least likely appointments on the bookmakers list of potential replacements, with most making him around 16/1 to take over at Old Trafford. There is no question he would be welcomed with open arms if Woodward could persuade Allegri to leave Juventus. When the two sides met, the Italians passed it around United’s midfielders as though they weren’t even there. They were even the better side when the Red Devils somehow managed to win.

There would be no cons to appointing Allegri, other than the fact that it would be his first taste of English football. The problem would be that you must ask the question why he would leave Turin when he has built a one of the best sides in Europe, who are strongly fancied to win the Champions League, to take over a club in turmoil. It doesn’t seem likely, somehow.

Eddie Howe

There in no question that Eddie Howe has done an unbelievable job at Bournemouth. Since his appointment in 2012, he oversaw two promotions in three seasons to get the club in the top flight for the first time in their history. At the age of just 41, he is very much a manager for the future and will no doubt be snapped up by a bigger club in the years to come.

What would no doubt count against him is that the board already appointed one manager in David Moyes who, like Howe, had never won a trophy or competed in the Champions League before. It is unlikely they would do that again anytime soon, however promising they might be.

Nicky Butt

Another United legend on the payroll at Old Trafford, Butt is currently the Head of Academy at the club. The football they are playing, such as coming from behind away to Valencia last week, is far more entertaining than what the first team have churned out this season. Butt is Manchester United through and through and understands exactly what makes the club tick. His appointment would not only inject some passion into the team, but he has a better idea than anyone which youth prospects are ready for their chance on the big stage.

As with Carrick, the downside is inexperience at this level. Coaching the youth players, who are hungry and eager to impress, is a whole different ball game to managing the egos in a dressing room full of international footballers. He may be a great choice for the future but is unlikely to be given the job anytime soon. There is also the fact that he is doing a first-class job with the academy.

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Ryan Giggs

Whenever Manchester United are looking for a new manager, it’s inevitable that the club’s most decorated player will be mentioned as one of the candidates. He briefly took over for the final four games of the 2013-14 season following the sacking of David Moyes and was assistant manager to Louis van Gaal for his two years in charge, leaving the club when the Dutchman was sacked in 2016. Giggs was appointed as manager of Wales in January 2018.

There is no question that he could probably have taken over the job on a caretaker basis until the end of the season, as plenty of managers have combined club and international management in the past. It is hard to see him being given a chance permanently just yet, as he is less than a year into his first full time managerial role. This makes him no more likely a candidate for the job than when he was overlooked before.

Diego Simeone

The Argentine was once a hated figure at Old Trafford following his antics at the 1998 World Cup which saw David Beckham sent off, but that is long in the past. Since retiring as a player in 2006, Simeone has gone on to become one of Europe’s most sought-after managers. Since taking over at Atlético Madrid in 2011 he has won La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and two Europa League titles as well as twice finishing runner up in the Champions League. As such, he is constantly being linked to other clubs, and it seems a matter of time before he eventually leaves Madrid.

One thing that might count against Simeone, certainly in the eyes of the fans, is that his overall approach to the way he sets his teams up isn’t too dissimilar to Mourinho’s. A compact and well organised defence with an onus seemingly on counter attack has been the United way for almost five years now, and the fans want a break from it. 

Arsène Wenger

A surprise entry, but one that seems to be on the list of candidates with some bookmakers. An enemy of United for so long, just like Mourinho, it would be a strange twist to the tale but it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. Wenger has more Premier League experience than anyone else on the list, and there is no doubt he would bring a more entertaining brand of football to Old Trafford than has been seen in recent years. He is also a free agent having left Arsenal after 22 years in the summer.

The reality is that the last two managers that Woodward have appointed have been accused of being out of touch with modern football, something that has also been levelled at Wenger. With this in mind it seems there is little chance he will be the next manager.

Antonio Conte

Another manager with a successful track record, having won Serie A with Juventus and the Premier League with Chelsea, who he left in the summer. He is currently without a club following his departure from Stamford Bridge, and is free to talk to other clubs now that he has settled his contract dispute with the London club. He knows the Premier League, and his reputation would command the respect of the dressing room.

The major drawback in appointing the Italian would be whether they wanted another Chelsea cast-off, given how it ended with Mourinho. The fact that he also seemed to lose the dressing room in his second season provides a glaring similarity to what happened with the manager United recently sacked. Despite Conte being one of the favourites for the job, his appointment seems rather unlikely.

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