José Mourinho recently stated that he doesn’t intend to finish his career at Manchester United. While this isn’t necessarily surprising considering his career thus far, to United fans it’s a scary thought for the club to have to find yet another manager to foster success in the post-Ferguson era.
This article is not intended to debate how long Mourinho will stay, though readers are welcome to do so in the comments, but rather explore possible candidates to take up the reigns as long term solutions at manager for Manchester United, a club whose greatest successes have come with stability at the helm.
Let’s start with the obvious.
If Mourinho always intended from the beginning to leave at some point, perhaps he should have done what he could to keep Ryan Giggs around.
Not only does Giggs have a brilliant footballing mind, but he also knows the club inside and out. He is the most accomplished player in the club’s history, having played over 20 years, served as assistant manager under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, and even as interim manager from when Moyes was sacked until the end of the 2013/14 season.
Giggs has not yet tested his managerial mind since leaving his post upon the arrival of José Mourinho, adding a tally to the “risk” column, and perhaps he wouldn’t want to risk his status as a club legend, but he hasn’t hid his desire to manage, and especially manage United. He could be the dream long term solution both the club and fans are desperate for.
The biggest question mark is how ready he is for the job. Zinedine Zidane has been able to prove himself at Real Madrid. Ryan Giggs would be in a similar situation as a club legend, and his loyalty to the club is unquestioned.
This legend of the European game has had a bit of a Mourinho-like run this decade, with successful managing stints at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich since his departure from AC Milan in 2009.
He failed to win the league at only one of those clubs, Real Madrid, but made up for it by winning the Champions League. His run at AC Milan too demonstrates his ability to succeed, but also his ability to establish a culture of success over a period of time at one club.
Ancelotti is also only 58 years old, and doesn’t seem to have any interest in permanently retiring. His run at Chelsea was ended by his failure to defeat Manchester United in the Premier League and Champions League in 2010/11, but perhaps he can be forgiven for finishing 2nd to a Sir Alex Ferguson side.
A manager as talented and respected as Ancelotti should not be unemployed. United could be a logical next move should the opportunity arise.
This is a tricky one, because Zidane will almost certainly have to be sacked by Real Madrid before he would leave for Manchester United, but considering the trigger-happy past of Real Madrid’s Directors it’s a Real possibility (pun absolutely intended).
The moment Zidane fails to win a trophy for Los Blancos he could be out the door, meaning a young and brilliant manager is available for hire by any club willing to overlook one season where ridiculous expectations weren’t met.
Maybe Madrid’s incredible roster and resources played a part in his success, but he still achieved back to back Champions League titles, something no club has done since Milan in 1990, and La Liga and Champions League success in the same season, something no Madrid manager has done since 1958.
Madrid would be foolish to let Zidane go, but if they his post will be flooded with job offers. Zidane has spoken highly of United and its players in the past. If the timing is right Manchester United would be hard for anyone to say no to.
“Purgatory is kinda like the inbetweeny one. You weren’t really shit, but you weren't all that great either. Like Tottenham.” - Ray from the film In Bruges (2008).
Suddenly the North London side are no longer a “purgatory” joke.
Suddenly Tottenham are actual title contenders.
And rightfully so.
Pochettino’s success at Spurs speaks for itself. From the emergence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli to the ending of the St. Totteringham’s Day run, Tottenham are fierce competitors in English football once again, and it doesn’t look to be going away. Thus, Pochettino’s stock has skyrocketed, and he’s been linked to Manchester United before, along with Barcelona this past summer.
Had Mourinho not been job hunting in 2016 Pochettino may very well have been approached by Woodward.
But Pochettino is enjoying life at Spurs, by all indication. They’re performing well in the league and in the Champions League. The new and impressive White Hart Lane is nearly completed. Why would he leave his club on the rise?
Tottenham have yet to turn form into silverware. While Tottenham would be silly to grow impatient so quickly with Pochettino, he may be smart to realize that his window may not be open for long. Chelsea and City have consistently challenged for trophies since their respective blank checks have arrived. Liverpool are on the rise under Jurgen Klopp. Arsenal still have Arsene, but are beginning to invest in their future, and have still won the FA Cup 3 of the last 4 seasons. And then, of course, there is United.
Pochettino’s managerial career is still young. Should the trophy drought continue for Spurs, expect Pochettino to entertain offers. An opportunity to manage a club as distinguished as Manchester United should be enough to lure him away from the Lane.
Yes, the question of who could be United’s next manager was raised by Mourinho’s own comments about finishing his career elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be a long term solution.
Mourinho talks a lot, and in addition to his recent comments he has also stated this past summer that he could see himself at United for 15 years. That would potentially give him time to finish his career somewhere else if he wants to manage into his seventies.
Or perhaps he just wasn’t happy with the new contract United were set to offer him, and this is his way of saying “pay me.”
Either way, United appear to be on the right track under Mourinho, and Mourinho rarely leaves a project unfinished.
Don’t expect Ed Woodward to be keen on letting the Special One go either, unless things get really bad really quickly. His effectiveness as Chief Executive has been questioned more than once since replacing David Gill, and constantly shopping for managers doesn’t help.