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Manchester United Should Consider Gareth Southgate for their next manager

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The former Middlesborough man has worked his way up the England managerial ladder. Is he ready to take another leap in his management career?

Colombia v England: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Gareth Southgate has been making waves for multiple reasons since his appointment as England manager following the Sam Allardyce debacle, and recently there’s been an outpouring of support from fans following the Three Lions’ surreal World Cup run, which included a penalty shootout win over Colombia in the Round of 16 and a dominant 2-0 win over Sweden in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual Runners Up Croatia in the semi-final. Despite coming up short, Southgate has more than guaranteed his safety as England manager for at least another major tournament cycle. However, interest from other clubs will have been guaranteed as well. Should he consider moving back into club football after his England career Manchester United should consider him as an option post-Mourinho.

Manchester United certainly are not justified in sacking José Mourinho yet, but should he fail again to deliver silverware, or qualify for Champions League football, it may bring a swift ending to the Special One’s stay at Old Trafford. Why not consider a replacement who has made his career in developing and experimenting with young talent? Southgate’s side succeeded because of the manager’s work assembling a team of young talent and leaders who understand each other better than any England side in over a decade. Southgate developed a trust not only between himself and his players, but also between the players themselves.

Southgate’s overhaul of the England squad seems to have worked out. He’s brought in young players and players on the fringes of the national team who have impressed in qualifying and at the World Cup itself. Included in this squad are Manchester United’s own Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, and Ashley Young. Rashford and Lingard both featured often in qualifying and Lingard was a key player at the center of the park for England throughout their run to the World Cup semi-finals.

The key for Southgate to finally unlock the potential of this talented England team appears to be his experience and knowledge of the England players and system all the way down to the youth teams. As Manager of the England Under-21s side he may not have had the most successful stint in charge, but he helped bring up a generation of footballers who are now breaking through at the club and international level. The youth system was left much better than it was found and regularly competes at tournaments.

When he became the first team manager in 2016 he immediately began ushering in that generation to replace the aging players who failed spectacularly for nearly a decade despite having legendary talents available for selection.

One of the problems that plagued England’s “Golden Generation” from 2002-2012 was the severe lack of team chemistry. Players like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Rio Ferdinand will always be considered legends of the game, but they simply could not put aside their club rivalries and commit 100% to the team. Not only is the 2018 edition of England able to work with each other, but they all genuinely seem to like each other.

Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard both seem to be good friends with Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli, two fierce Premier League rivals. Dele even appeared ready to fight with United players, including Lingard, in their first match of the 2017/18 season, but that simply shows the remarkable work Southgate has done to establish boundaries between club and international teams. Any manager who is able to form such a tightly knit locker room made up of players who are rivals on the outside is a manager who stands apart from most in this day and age of immediate results and system management.

One important reason that Southgate maintains and strengthens relationships with his players is he is more than willing to stick up for them in the face of adversity. The England team and managers have historically been hounded by the English press, and even the slightest of mistakes could lead to weeks of harassment and ridicule. This came before the 2018 World Cup even began when stories emerged concerning Raheem Sterling’s tattoos. Sterling has a tattoo of a rifle on his leg in remembrance of his father, who was shot and killed when Sterling was a child. Headlines and articles from the usual suspects called Sterling’s character into question, and many accused him of promoting gun violence. However, the ridiculous vilification of Sterling was met with staunch resistance from Southgate, team captain Harry Kane, and the rest of the squad. They were quick to defend Sterling and point out the ridiculous accusations directed at him. That’s a manager and team that players want to play for.

Southgate is clearly a student of an era seemingly forgotten, when managers were expected to establish a culture as well as a system and formation when they arrived. Manchester United have tried and failed twice to find such a manager since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, and though he is an accomplished manager Mourinho has yet to stay at a job for more than 3 years. It’s not ridiculous to assume he may not stay at United for as long as initially suggested, and if that is the case United should consider Southgate.

Southgate values youth and development, and he doesn’t manage for the short term glory. His system at England has set the team up for future endeavors from the first team down to the academy systems, and his players will follow him wherever. It may be a risk, but United have to keep Southgate in consideration should they find themselves needing a new manager for a 4th time since 2013.