After the departure of Jose Mourinho, at a time when Manchester United had been trundling along like a rusty old Reliant Robin, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the wheel he seemed to have sparked the Red Devils towards a new lease of life.
It was a breath of fresh air at Old Trafford. The iconic former striker inspired quality performances and positive results on the pitch, not to mention the admiration of fans and his very own song, as United suffered just one defeat during his first 17 games in charge. The peak for the Norwegian was turfing PSG out of the Champions League, cheekily fielding a side packed with kids.
Nevertheless, the worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1981 has since left more than a few people pondering Ole’s future already. Currently 500/1 for the Premier League title and 1/6 to finish outside the top four, Man Utd won just three of their opening eleven games. With the team looking more like mid-table strugglers than genuine contenders to jostle amongst the Champions League positions, this has to be their minimum target for the 2019/20 season.
Some big names have been linked with the post, should Ed Woodward take the keys from Solskjaer and politely ask him to step out from behind the wheel. There are even one or two who might actually relish the opportunity, should the invitation arrive. Let’s take a look at the leading candidates to be the next permanent Man United manager.
Having helped turn emerging talents like Son Heung-min and Harry Kane into world-class players, along with turning Spurs into a permanent top-four contender, even running Chelsea close for the 2016/17 Premier League title, Poch is very much on the radar for some of the biggest jobs in European football. This included Real Madrid, before Zinedine Zidane returned like the prodigal son.
Reaching the Champions League final last season underlines his credentials and, already tipped for the United job last season before Solskjaer’s temporary charge became permanent, he’s amongst the favourites again. Especially, after his recent departure from Spurs, there’s a good chance of tempting him north to Old Trafford, given the right offer and a sizeable transfer kitty to play with.
If the first step towards getting Manchester United back where they belong is domestic dominance, that’s precisely what Allegri achieved with Juventus, even if he couldn’t quite deliver the Champions League glory they craved. What’s more, after thanking the Old Lady and bidding her a fond farewell last summer, Allegri is currently available and patiently waiting for the right offer. The United job might be just the challenge he’s looking for next.
That said, reports from Spain suggest that Zinedine Zidane’s days might also be numbered at Real Madrid. Following their shaky domestic and continental start to the campaign, don’t be surprised if club supremo Florentino Perez already has Allegri’s number on speed dial, should the Santiago Bernabeu hot seat suddenly become available.
Now this one is guaranteed to split opinions. A former Liverpool boss taking the reins at Manchester United? Surely not! Well, if we were talking about Jurgen Klopp it might be an entirely different story for some fans. That said, if we forget about his past at Anfield and even discount the superb achievements with Celtic in Scotland, what makes Brendan Rodgers an interesting option is how he’s managed to turn the fortunes of Leicester City around.
Not since Claudio Ranieri did the impossible with the Foxes during the 2015/16 season, winning the Premier League title, have they come anywhere close to jostling for their position amongst the top four. However, the arrival of Rodgers last season sparked a dramatic improvement, which has continued this term, as Leicester City look set to challenge amongst the Champions League spots. Could he do the same with United? We’d love to know what fans think.
Should Ed Woodward wield the axe and opt to replace Solskjaer with another former United favourite, Laurent Blanc certainly wouldn’t be a bad option to consider – which is reflected by the Frenchman being amongst the favourite contenders. His leadership on the pitch was renowned as a player, making the 1998 World Cup winner with a long list of club honours, and also highly valued by Sir Alex Ferguson during the two years he spent at Old Trafford.
In his first managerial post with Bordeaux, Blanc guided them to the Ligue 1 and Coupe de la Ligue double in France. After a stint leading the French national team during a difficult period, he also ensured PSG dominated the domestic scene, even though he couldn’t emulate the same level of success in the Champions League. Still, his managerial pedigree is more than evident, while his past with the Red Devils makes him a strong contender.
Aside from a promotion with De Graafschap and a KNVB Cup win in 2001, the playing career of Erik ten Hag wasn’t really much to write home about. Neither were his first steps into management; struggling during a single season in the second tier of Dutch football with Go Ahead Eagles, then fired after a season and a half with Bayern Munich’s second team. Still, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so they say, and he finally made his managerial mark with FC Utrecht.
Ten Hag elevated Utrecht to fifth in the Eredivisie in his first campaign, then fourth and the Europa League in his second season. Landing the big job at Ajax was considered a surprise appointment midway through the 2017/18 campaign, but last season the 49-year-old led them to the Dutch Double and had an amazing run in the Champions League, reaching the semi-finals. Too soon for an opportunity like the United job? His footballing style would be admired, just as it has at Ajax, yet he might struggle under such pressure of expectation at Old Trafford.
While it’s always interesting to analyse the favourites, it’s even more fun to look at those with an outside chance of becoming the next Manchester United manager. Well, if it’s former players that fans of the Red Devils would prefer, amongst those already working at the club, Michael Carrick at 20/1 shouldn’t be sniffed at, or maybe even Nicky Butt at 40/1 odds, even though he might not want the top job.
Many fans have suggested a certain outspoken Irishman is just what the underperforming United players need, so maybe Roy Keane at 66/1 is the kick up the backside required. Alternatively, imagine the King himself rocking up for a spectacular return to Old Trafford, with Eric Cantona at 275/1 odds. If that happened, we’d demand live camera feeds of every team talk, just to see if the iconic Frenchman mentions anything about seagulls and trawlers…
Odds correct at 13.00 (21/01/2020)