A few months ago, it seemed inevitable Jose Mourinho would take Manchester United’s managerial reigns from Louis van Gaal at the end of the season.
The Dutchman was under huge pressure from the Red Devils’ fanbase and ‘The Special One’ had just become available after being issued his marching orders by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
But suddenly, the footballing world isn’t quite so convinced that the Portuguese will be in the Old Trafford hot seat in time for next season, with recent reports claiming United’s owners, the Glazer family, have huge reservations about the ex-Blues boss.
Perhaps that isn’t so surprising. Mourinho’s second spell in west London ended in complete catastrophe and that has been a recurring trend throughout his career.
Likewise, the 53-year-old is notorious for pragmatic football and limited opportunities for young players, whilst Red Devils fans want to see attacking displays and their academy products feature regularly at first team level.
But with many still expecting Louis van Gaal to get the chop this summer, especially if United finish outside of the top four, who could the Red Devils turn to instead? Being the helpful bunch we are at FootballFanCast, we’ve listed SIX exciting alternatives.
Manchester United’s master plan to one day appoint club legend Ryan Giggs is no great secret, having served as Louis van Gaal’s assistant and even performed caretaker duties following David Moyes’ timely departure in 2014.
Of course, the Welshman lacks any real experience as the main man in the dugout and at a club as monolithic at Manchester United, that could inevitably leave him unstuck – a situation the fans will be desperate to avoid.
Nonetheless, the 13-time Premier League title holder is a ruthless winner who understands the traditional United philosophy and the fan base better than any manager the Red Devils could bring in.
He’s also worked with two of the top managers of their era in Ferguson and van Gaal, whilst the torrid ten months under David Moyes will have been a major learning curve for all the wrong reasons.
But with Pep Guardiola taking over at Manchester City, Antonio Conte at Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, placing a novice in charge for next season will be an enormous risk.
Guus Hiddink has insisted he’ll retire once his interim spell at Chelsea comes to an end this summer, but convincing him otherwise could prove to be a very shrewd move on Manchester United’s part.
Indeed, the Dutchman’s record in the Premier League is simply phenomenal, losing just one of his 29 league fixtures from two spells in charge of the Blues – winning 19 and drawing nine. Overall, that’s 66 points out of a possible 87.
But that impressive haul is not so surprising; ‘Uncle Guus’ has worked at some of the biggest clubs in world football – PSV, Valencia, Fenerbahce Real Madrid and Chelsea – and recorded noteworthy triumphs on the international stage with South Korea and Australia.
He offers vast and diverse experience and is a manager famed for his amicable demeanour, evident enough through Chelsea’s recent upturn in form. But at 69 years of age, there are certainly more dynamic options out there – in truth, Hiddink would be little more than a night watchman.
Mark Hughes’ managerial career has been one of great consistency, with the exception of a noteworthy blotch in the form of his eleven rather painful months at QPR.
Indeed, the 52-year-old obtained UEFA Cup football and reached two cup finals whilst in charge of Blackburn Rovers, oversaw the early stages of Manchester City’s almighty transition into title winners and recorded an eighth-place finish during his single season at Fulham.
But it’s at Stoke City where ‘Sparky’ has truly shone; transforming an attritional team inherited from Tony Pulis into one of the most well-rounded sides in the Premier League, by working with mercurial attacking talents effectively blacklisted by Europe’s biggest clubs – Granit Xhaka, Bojan and Marco Arnautovic most notably.
Furthermore, Hughes served two spells at Manchester United as a player, lifting two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and that connection with the club could prove vital in quickly winning over the fan base.
There is a common consensus that Ronald Koeman deserves a chance at a top club and having proved himself compatible with the Premier League during an impressive spell at Southampton, Manchester United could be a very good fit for the Dutchman.
Indeed, when the 53-year-old arrived at St. Mary’s in 2014, the Saints were amid an almighty exodus of playing personnel and backroom staff, with some resultantly tipping them for relegation.
Yet, they’ve become even stronger with Koeman at the helm, through the combination of a vibrant dressing room atmosphere and some very shrewd tactical displays – the recent change to a 3-6-1 formation following a poor run of results being perhaps the most obvious example – and recorded their highest ever league finish of the Premier League last season.
But Southampton are by no means Koeman’s only success story. He’s previously lead Ajax, Benfica, Valencia and PSV to domestic honours and is of course famed for his playing days, serving as Barcelona’s sweeper to become world football’s top-scoring defender of all time.
With his Southampton contract due to expire in 2017, the coming summer represents a good chance for Manchester United to prize him away.
Diego Simeone’s preferred style of football – not to mention his often overzealous fighting spirit – may not please everybody but it’s impossible to dispute its effectiveness.
Since taking over at Vincente Calderon in December 2011, he’s taken Atletico Madrid from the brink of financial despair to a Copa del Rey, a Europa League title and the first non-El-Clasico La Liga title in over a decade despite constantly parting with key players – most notably Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois.
The team ethic the Argentine has produced is nothing short of incredible and Spurs and Leicester City have proved this season how vital that can be in the Premier League, even if you’re lacking in stellar talent.
But Manchester United fans may grow restless with his disciplined philosophy and it remains to be seen if the achievements at Atletico – where most aspects of the club are under Simeone’s control – can be replicated at a larger club
Likewise, he’s ferociously committed to the Mattress Makers’ cause and will be reluctant to leave whilst a twelve-month transfer ban is lingering over them.
Few managers in Europe right now – let alone the Premier League – boast stock as high as Mauricio Pochettino, the indisputable mastermind heind Tottenham Hotspur’s rise into genuine title contenders.
Indeed, the Argentine has forged a young, hardworking and hugely ambitious side in the space of just over 18 months at White Hart Lane that employ a technical and high-octane brand of attacking football.
Manchester United fans like opportunities for young players and scintillating attacking displays; Pochettino offers both in equal measure and has proved this season that he’s more than capable of mixing it up with some of the best managers in the business.
But he remains fairly committed to the Tottenham project and probably won’t be interested in jumping ship to United if Spurs finish higher than them in the Premier League table this season – which is now pretty much a certainty.