In the end, losing 4-1 away to Watford was the final straw for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Manchester United finally pulled the trigger over the weekend, the Norwegian having been very fortunate to survive twin humiliations to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City recently and the hunt for the next Manchester United manager began.
Michael Carrick will be in charge while United search for an interim manager to hold the fort until the end of the season, which appears to be a rather strange approach for the club to be taking. It appears to indicate the likely targets will not be available until the summer, so here are five of the top names in the frame to be the next permanent Manchester United manager.
5 candidates to be the next Manchester United manager
United have missed out on Pochettino once before and they might be determined to avoid making the same mistake a second time. Pochettino has a contract with Paris Saint-Germain until 2023 but it is possible the Ligue 1 giants would allow him to move on in the summer.
PSG failed to win the title last season and, while they are on track to put that right in 2021-22, there are still plenty of questions about Pochettino’s long-term future in the French capital.
Pochettino’s record with Spurs demands respect but there are still issues around him that could be off-putting for United. The 49-year-old does not have the same track record of delivering trophies as someone like Antonio Conte, who would have been a very strong contender for the post had United sacked Solskjaer a few weeks ago.
Pochettino, who took Tottenham to the final of the Champions League, is the front-runner with the Argentine apparently Alex Ferguson’s preferred candidate, not that David Moyes succeeded when he was hand-picked by the Scot on his retirement in 2013. Currently the front-runner to be the next Manchester United manager.
With Conte now installed at Spurs, Zidane is by far the most high-profile manager out of work right now. The former Real Madrid boss won a trio of consecutive Champions League titles in his first spell at the club, then delivered the La Liga title when he returned for another go.
Despite winning plenty of silverware with Madrid, critics claim Zidane had it easy with a blockbuster squad perfectly set up for success. That is not quite the case at United where there are still glaring weaknesses in central midfield and in defence, but the chance to work with ex-Madrid stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane again may appeal to the Frenchman.
Reports have already indicated that Zidane has his eye on the France job, though, while he could be a leading option for PSG within the next couple of years as well.
Within the Premier League, Rodgers is probably the best attainable option to be the next Manchster United manager.
History with Liverpool should not be too big a barrier to overcome, but the fact Leicester City’s level of performance has dramatically dropped this season would be a major concern. Rodgers has already played down reports linking him with a switch to Old Trafford, but that was a couple of weeks ago, before the job became available.
Success with Celtic means Rodgers has experience of leading a massive club where trophies are expected, but his record in European competitions is not as impressive. Rodgers certainly has the force of personality to take charge, but his stock is not high right now.
Erik ten Hag
Previously linked with Tottenham and Newcastle United, Ajax boss Ten Hag has already talked about rumours he could succeed Solskjaer.
Speaking over the weekend, Ten Hag said: “My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts. I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too.”
Ten Hag denied there has been any contact from United and described being questioned about the job as “weird”, which does not sound like someone who is ready to take over at Old Trafford. Should United decide Ten Hag is the man, though, it might be hard for him to turn the job down.
It did not take long after Solskjaer’s sacking for reports to circle claiming that Luis Enrique would be Ronaldo’s preference to take charge as the next Manchester United manager.
Quite why the club would be influenced by the choice of a player in the last years of his career remains to be seen, but the Spaniard’s exceptional record demands consideration.
A treble with Barcelona remains his career highlight, but with the World Cup on the horizon it might prove impossible to tempt the 51-year-old away from his job with Spain at the moment.
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