Zidane & Managers That Could Succeed Mourinho at Man Utd

Published December 18th, 2018 - 03:17 GMT
With the Portuguese having been sacked in the wake of Sunday's humiliating loss at Liverpool, we look at his possible replacements at Old Trafford
With the Portuguese having been sacked in the wake of Sunday's humiliating loss at Liverpool, we look at his possible replacements at Old Trafford

The timing of Manchester United's announcement of Jose Mourinho's sacking may have caught everyone by surprise but the decision itself most certainly did not.

Sunday's embarrassingly one-sided loss to bitter rivals Liverpool highlighted just how far behind the Premier League's elite the Red Devils have fallen this season.

It had been thought that Mourinho would be given until the spring to turn things around but with the Anfield debacle having left United 11 points off fourth place, the Glazer family have decided to act.

The club have stated that an interim manager will be appointed until the end of the current campaign, and the current favourite is Michael Carrick, but who will be the next permanent boss at Old Trafford?

Below, we take a look at the potential candidates...

Zinedine Zidane

The favourite, both with the bookies and United's disgruntled supporters, is Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman stood down as Real Madrid boss after leading the Spanish side to a third consecutive Champions League triumph with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in May.

Despite his remarkable record in European competition, there are those that remain unconvinced by the former France international's coaching ability, with the argument being that he is tactically limited and also little more than a cup specialist.

However, such an attitude does Zidane a huge disservice, given he also won La Liga in 2016-17 and showed a willingness to experiment more and take greater risks with different formations during his final season at the Santiago Bernabeu, utilising the likes of Marcos Asensio and Lucas Vazquez to excellent effect, most notably against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.

There is no denying, though, that the most impressive aspect of his Real reign was the way in which he successfully managed a group of superstars, maintaining harmony in a dressing-room of massive egos and also rotating Cristiano Ronaldo regularly and effectively.

One would imagine that one of the most revered figures in world football would have an even bigger impact upon on a United side that, despite Mourinho's protestations to the contrary, has been lacking in unity and confidence since the start of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino

"For every single manager who is younger than him, he was an inspiration," Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said of Jose Mourinho earlier this season. "For everyone. I took a lot of things from him. So many things."

It has is now evident that the student has become the master. Indeed, many have believed for some time that United erred badly by picking Mourinho rather than Pochettino to succeed Louis van Gaal as coach in 2016.

By that stage, it was already abundantly obvious that the Argentine was one of the best young coaches in the game.

Of course, the critics will point to the fact that Pochettino has yet to win a trophy of any note in north London but it is worth remembering that he took over a club in disarray and now has Tottenham competing and starring in the Champions League.

Indeed, anybody who witnessed their victory over Real Madrid last season could not have been anything but impressed by the style and swagger of the display.

It was a similar story at Old Trafford in August, with Pochettino making a mockery of Mourinho's constant moaning about Ed Woodward's parsimony by beating United 3-0 with a squad that wasn't strengthened by a single summer signing.

The contrast between the pair, both in terms of style and personality, is stark and it is difficult not to conclude that Pochettino would get more out of United's players than Mourinho.

The big question is, though: would he really want to swap Spurs for United right now?...

Antonio Conte

United turning to Antonio Conte would come as a surprise, for a variety of reasons, chief among them the manner of his departure as Chelsea boss earlier this summer.

Given Mourinho's public sniping over the club's recruitment strategy, would the Red Devils really want to hire a man who has clashed with his two previous bosses at club level over transfers?

There's also the fact that Conte wants his next coaching role to be in his native Italy and it is believed that AC Milan have already identified him as a possible replacement for Gennaro Gattuso, while Inter's appointment of former Juventus director general Beppe Marotta has intensified speculation that the Nerazzurri could turn to Conte should they decide to sack the struggling Luciano Spalletti.

Still, the 49-year-old would undoubtedly be drawn to such a high-profile position – and succeeding great rival Mourinho at Old Trafford would undoubtedly make it all the sweeter.

Conte also has previous when it comes to awakening a sleeping giant, having transformed a Bianconeri team coming off the back of successive seventh-placed finishes in Serie A into Scudetto winners inside 12 months.

The Italian is undeniably a winner – he even won the FA Cup during his second, turbulent season at Stamford Bridge – but his incredible intensity usually causes problems over time and United would perhaps be reluctant to replace Mourinho with an equally opinionated character.

Then, there is also the small matter of Conte's ongoing legal battle with Chelsea...

Massimiliano Allegri

On the face of it, Manchester United have little hope of landing Massimiliano Allegri, who is under contract at Juventus until 2020.

The Italian even turned down Real Madrid during the summer, explaining in June: "I am grateful to president Florentino Perez for taking me into consideration, but I have always liked Juventus' plans, which are renewed every year with the aim of always winning.

"I will look to continue the improvements that we began four years ago, alongside [Beppe] Marotta, [Fabio] Paratici, [Pavel] Nedved and the president."

With Cristiano Ronaldo having since arrived in Turin, Allegri is now happier than ever before with his bosses, as he is now closer than ever to realising his dream of lifting the Champions League.

However, we know that Allegri would like to work in England and the feeling is that if he were to lead the Old Lady to glory in Madrid next June, he would view it as the ideal time to leave Turin in search of a new challenge.

As a five-time Scudetto winner and a two-time Champions League finalist with greater skills of diplomacy and man-management than Conte, Allegri would doubtless be a popular choice with both the board and players at Old Trafford.

It's highly unlikely he'd be available until next summer but that could well suited United and the ex-AC Milan boss would be worth the wait.

Laurent Blanc

When Jose Mourinho was last under pressure at Old Trafford, two years ago, Laurent Blanc emerged as a possible replacement.

Indeed, it was even reported that the former United defender had turned down the chance to succeed Frank de Boer at Inter in order to remain in the reckoning for a return to Manchester.

Remarkably, despite recent links with Roma, Blanc has yet to resume his coaching career, admitting that he is holding out for a truly interesting challenge. United would certainly interest the Frenchman, who spent two seasons at the club before calling him on his playing days in 2003.

The sweeper's ability to read the game subsequently served him well when he started his coaching career at Bordeaux, whom he led to a Ligue 1 title in 2008-09.

Blanc claimed three further championships at Paris Saint-Germain before eventually being sacked in 2016 because of his perceived inability to triumph in continental competition.

There would obviously be concerns over whether he could replicate his top-flight success in France in England, not least because he has been out of the game for so long, but the 52-year-old's genial, cool and calm demeanour might make for a welcome change from the current combustible character in charge at Old Trafford.

Leonardo Jardim

Any time a top job comes up in England, Leonardo Jardim is always put forward as a possible candidate, and it's easy to understand why.

The Portuguese coach may have been sacked by Monaco after a disastrous start to the season but nobody can deny that he had been working wonders at the Stade Louis II for years, nurturing top teenage talents such as Kylian Mbappe, as well as reinvigorating the careers of veterans such as Radamel Falcao.

Despite repeatedly seeing his best players sold, Jardim was responsible for the one of the great coaching campaigns of the modern era, in 2016-17, when his Monaco side pipped cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title, while at the same time reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.

As sporting director Vadim Vasilyev told Goal in August, "Monaco's not for all coaches, as it's really hard to see so many players coming and going.

"So, a coach who has the intelligence, the courage and the motivation to work with a team that needs [to be] constantly rebuilt, who remains ambitious and behind the decisions of his club, is rare.”

It certainly is, and helps explain why Jardim was a contender to replace Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte at Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively, this summer.

Perhaps United will be the English club that finally manages to lure Jardim to the Premier League.

Michael Carrick

Given what happened the last time United were last thrown into utter disarray mid-season, it would be remiss of us not to mention Michael Carrick.

Back when the club decided to dispense with the services of David Moyes in April 2014, player-coach Ryan Giggs was named as interim boss for the remainder of the campaign.

The Welshman did not do enough during that brief period to convince his employers that he should be given the job on a permanent basis but he was kept on by his successor, Louis van Gaal, as assistant manager until Mourinho's arrival in 2016.

Should Carrick be named as caretaker coach – and that is by no means a certainty given his lack of experience at the highest level – he would, at least, have far more time to make a positive impression on the Glazers than his former team-mate Giggs.

Still, while the former midfielder is widely respected at Old Trafford for his understanding and reading of the game, there are doubts over whether he has the charisma and strength of character to take on such a role at just 37 years of age.

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs's chances of being the next Man United boss always appear remote but it seems that no list of potential candidates can be compiled without the Welshman, given the strength of his ties to the club.

The former winger is, of course, an Old Trafford legend, having spent his entire 24-year playing career with the Red Devils, winning a staggering 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during that time.

He is, therefore, beloved by fans but a return looks unlikely nonetheless.

Firstly, he only took over as Wales boss in January and while he would undoubtedly be enamoured with the idea of taking the top job at United, it would appear unlikely that he would be offered the role before he has really proven himself as a coach.

Indeed, Giggs freely admitted that he struggled with the pressure during his four-game spell as interim boss following David Moyes's dismissal before the end of the 2013-14 season, so while he is now four years older, he remains a managerial novice.

The supporters would arguably love nothing more than seeing Giggs lead their club to success but even they would have doubts over his ability to do so.

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