Opinion: Assessing Manchester United's managerial options

With current manager Louis van Gaal not taking the club forward, it could mean the board will possibly be looking to replace him.

Opinion: Assessing Manchester United's managerial options
Assess Manchester United's managerial options

Manchester United are going through a tough period, but it’s been going on for a long time since the moment Sir Alex Ferguson retired. David Gill, the ex-Manchester United chief executive, left at a similar time to Alex Ferguson. This left two massive holes to fill within the infrastructure of the club, which the board didn’t complete effectively. The chances of bringing in a world-class manager such as José Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti went begging and the Red Devils had to settle for David Moyes - which became the biggest downfall of the club.

Ed Woodward, the club's CEO, lacks the in-depth knowledge of the game that is required and he is more renowned for his ability to pull off commercial deals. Perhaps more concerning is United's failure to follow in the footsteps of other top clubs such as Barcelona and even rivals Manchester City, who have appointed a definitive Director of Football.

With the departures of Alex Ferguson and David Gill, Manchester United have been falling behind and don't seem to be much appealing when recruiting well-known players. After a disappointing season under David Moyes, the Scotsman was sacked with few games of the season remaining. Manchester United’s first season after the Sir Alex era was embarrassing, no-one was expecting the Red Devils to finish 7th under Moyes. The fans felt enough was enough and were surprised he wasn’t sacked earlier.

At the time, change was inevitable

In came Louis van Gaal, a well-known manager who had previously managed Barcelona and Bayern Munich in his career. He made an instant statement, selling quite a few players and bringing some in. In his first season in England, van Gaal finished in the top four which was the least the fans and the board were expecting, despite picking up lots of injuries throughout the season. Personally, I felt Manchester United could have finished third, if the club had recruited players during the January transfer window.

The second summer window at Manchester United, van Gaal took a big risk, shipping out loads of players once again. Fans on social media questioned this action and were shocked due to the fact the club would be playing in the Champions League again, making the squad size smaller didn't really make sense. We need to also consider the fact that Manchester United had a catastrophe with injuries last season; the manager should have kept this in mind before taking a big risk.

Now this risk is eating him up. He has spent £250million pounds during his time at the club and he still can't pick a first-team for a few straight games without them picking up an injury. Van Gaal has also been very arrogant when it comes to completing some basic actions, but it seems like he tries to perform a miracle, by doing things the hard way. With the top four seeming solid and Manchester United distancing away from it, this could result in Manchester United looking for a new manager in the season.

Who's next at Old Trafford? José perhaps?

Let's start with Van Gaal’s student and assistant at Barcelona, José Mourinho, who has been linked highly with the job. Mourinho would seem the perfect man for the job, especially remembering the fact that Pep Guardiola will be managing United’s rivals Manchester City. With the current squad looking very average compared to the other teams, Mourinho coming in would guarantee world-class players, whilst the Portuguese coach is known very well for his winning mentality.

Mourinho has had a fantastic record at pretty much every club he has managed; two league titles with Porto, two league titles with Inter Milan, one league title with Real Madrid and three league titles with Chelsea. In his 12 seasons at these four clubs, there has only been four seasons where hasn’t won the league title. Don’t forget, Mourinho also won the Champions League twice, at Porto and Inter Milan. Supporters will have still doubts about Mourinho, a manager who isn’t a fan of tiki-taka football and doesn’t believe in developing youth players - which is against United’s philosophy.

The experience Mourinho has at the biggest teams, especially in England, is clearly the reason why I feel he should be our first option.

What about Conte?

Antonio Conte, another man who has been linked with the Manchester United job from time-to-time. Conte did the unthinkable; for two consecutive seasons Juventus finished 7th and when Conte came in he won the Scudetti three times. He is well known for his 3-5-2 formation, which is used a lot by teams in Italy and this tactic has already been used at United, although it didn’t go according to plan under Louis van Gaal. Conte has several managerial honours which can be talked about for a long time, which clearly shows his hard work hasn’t gone without credit.

In general, Conte is a fantastic motivator; he can install confidence and faith into any player. A very passionate manager when it comes to the game, he celebrates every goal as if it’s a cup final and once told the Juventus players they would have to "spit blood until the end of the last game", this definitely shows the type of person he is and the fact that he expects nothing more than a win from his players. He expects his team to play hungry, never stop running, press the opposition highly and have a winning mentality.

Along with some good points, there are some drawbacks - as there are with every manager. You could argue that Conte is stubborn, because he opts to play the veterans as opposed to giving youngsters an extended opportunity. With players such as Paul Pogba under his guidance at Juve, he was able to mix the balance between the two - allowing youngsters some freedom, but also giving the more experienced players important squad roles within the side. 

This is just one of the reasons why I feel as though United should approach Conte for the managerial job in the summer, if we do miss out on Mourinho's signature.

The rising figure of Spurs' Pochettino

Up next, the rise of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine has become an inspiration to other managers in the league. Pochettino started life in the Premier League with Southampton during the 2012/13 season, when Nigel Adkins was sacked after a poor campaign, languishing three points above the relegation zone.

Pochettino took over for the remaining games of the season, picking up 19 points out of the last 15 games, which ensured them another season in the top flight as they finished 14th in the league table. In the next season, his first full season at Southampton, he reshaped the Saints, including a massive change around to their style of play and making the full use of the academy and recruiting system which resulted in Southampton finishing 8th in the league.

Pochettino moved to Tottenham Hotspur and has done a magnificent job in changing the squad around as well as the style of play. In his second season at the club, Tottenham are currently in the top four and after their recent win away to Manchester City, they have become title contenders too. Pochettino likes to play a high-pressing game and an attacking style of football. He favours the 4-2-3-1 formation which is now fairly common in the football world. He likes to play out from the back and always wants to dominate possession. If the team aren’t in possession, he expects them to press very quickly and it’s a key reason why he likes to play with fast players and those who have excellent stamina.

If Pochettino was to become the manager at United, it would be good news for the Manchester United board as he would fit in well because he has the ability to develop local players and the players from the youth academy. This would be an attractive point; United’s philosophy has been about giving youth a chance and developing them for a very long time. One fact to consider is that he hasn’t achieved any silverware during his time in the Premier League, but he has done very well with this hungry and motivated Tottenham side, and who knows, they could win something during this current season.

I would love to see Mauricio Pochettino manage Manchester United one day, but I think United should see how well he carries on with the project at Tottenham for another season. If he achieves success in domestic or European competition, the club should look to bring him in at some stage in future.

Final verdict

There will definitely be people asking, why some other managers weren’t included? Well, Pep Guardiola is off to Manchester City and Carlo Ancelotti is off to Bayern Munich, both will move in the summer.

Ryan Giggs is another name that has popped up recently, but he’s simply not good enough and ready to be the next Manchester United manager. Also being the assistant manager won’t be doing him much help; he should go ahead and manage Manchester United’s youth team or go gain experience as a manager elsewhere.

Diego Simeone is another manager that wasn’t included, someone who seems likely to go to Chelsea, but with Atlético Madrid suffering with a transfer ban for two transfer windows, it’s impossible to see Simeone leaving the club he loves during a hard time. He has also dismissed reports to Premier League on many occasions, the only way you could see him leaving Atletico, is if he does a bad job and everyone wants him out.