Barring a total disaster this season, it's unlikely that Louis van Gaal will be sacked as Manchester United manager. But if reports are to be believed, he's also unlikely to renew the contract that expires at the end of next season. That means that Ed Woodward *should* (we can never be sure with these things) already be sounding out potential replacements. Fortunately his task is made rather easier by the relatively small number of coaches with a reputation worthy of the club, which we'll run through below:
Ah, Pep. The one everyone wants. The scarf-sporting Catalan hasn't enjoyed the European success of his predecessor, but he's still the most coveted coaching talent on the planet. And it's hardly surprising: Guardiola is undeniably a footballing visionary, and brings with him a winning mentality and a tactical blueprint as attractive as any other. Not insignificantly, his possession-based style of play could build on the foundations that Van Gaal will leave when he departs. The bad news: Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all among those that'll be competing for his signature when he leaves Bayern next summer -- a year before Van Gaal's contract with United comes to an end.
Mourinho would certainly be the funniest appointment, and it's increasingly looking like a plausible one too. Chelsea's poor start to the season combined with Mourinho's clumsy handling of Physiogate has left the Portuguese tactician on shaky ground at Stamford Bridge. It's not hard to envisage things going completely sour and him ending his second spell at the Blues in the near future. His footballing blueprint isn't as aesthetically pleasing as Guardiola's but his pragmatism has undoubtedly proved successful. It's also hard to imagine him turning United down, especially if he leaves Chelsea acrimoniously.
Jürgen Klopp's stock took a hit last season, as Borussia Dortmund turned from European contenders to Bundesliga also-rans. However, it's difficult to believe there weren't other forces at work in that dismal campaign, jut as one can't fail to be impressed by Klopp's two Bundesliga titles and Champions League runners-up medal. He plays a modern style of football that in some ways could be described as Van Gaal 2.0, and he's got another thing going for him: longevity. While Guardiola and Mourinho would bring short-term success but be off after three years, Klopp would be in it for the long haul: until this year his spell in management was unbroken since 2001, and he only had two clubs in that entire stretch.
The feat Diego Simeone achieved in leading Atlético Madrid to the La Liga title and the Champions League final a couple of seasons ago is the most impressive European football has seen in recent times; as an upset, arguably only Montpellier's stunning Ligue 1 win comes close. But so successful has Simeone been in sustaining Atléti's success that the magnitude of his achievement has been forgotten. Not only did he win silverware against the odds, but he did it playing a deep-lying counter-attacking game that was a dramatic break with the possession-based football favoured by most. He's presumably not going to stay at Atléti forever, and he'd be an interesting option for United.
Carlo Ancelotti matches the Italian stereotype of tactical intelligence perfectly. He's brilliant at setting his teams up for big matches, and manages to be pragmatic without compromising attacking intent. However, while that's brought him great success in cup competitions over the years -- he's won three Champions Leagues and several domestic tournaments -- his league record has been rather less impressive. He's spent time at Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid since 1999, and has only won three titles. If United want a coach who'll give the team a clear tactical identity, they should steer clear of Ancelotti.
Ryan Giggs is currently the bookies' favourite for the job, though hiring him would be taking a needless gamble of Moyesian proportions. Being a good assistant doesn't make one a good manager, and even if it did, Giggs hardly got his role in Van Gaal's backroom team on merit. Hiring the Welshman would be an appeal to romance and nostalgia, but United could pay a heavy price for trusting the heart over the head.
The wildcard option. He's young, talented and plays attractive football. He's very much the rank outsider, but the list wouldn't be complete without one.