There is much debate at the moment about whether Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be sacked and one common argument in favour of keeping him is that there is no obvious candidate available to replace him. But is that the case?
Whilst it is true that during the last period when Solskjaer’s job appeared to be under threat, former Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was unemployed and reportedly keen to take up the challenge. He subsequently was appointed head coach of Paris Saint Germain.
Another eminently ‘gettable’ candidate at the time was RB Leipzig’s Julien Nagelsmann, who has subsequently become head coach of Bayern Munich.
On the other hand, former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was employed at the time by Inter Milan and Zinedine Zidane was in charge at Real Madrid. Both are now available.
Many fans would instinctively have preferred Pochettino to Conte, as much for the playing style he adopts as for his less abrasive personality. Conte, many think, could be another Mourinho; a big ego full of demands who will upset what is currently a well-knit group.
It is of course possible that the Argentinian could still be enticed over to Old Trafford. His tenure so far at PSG has been less than successful, having crashed out of the Champions League to Manchester City last season and finishing second in Ligue 1 to Lille.
PSG have started this season more brightly but again today started to falter as a full strength side including Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and co. were roundly beaten by Rennes in Brittany.
However, the United board might ask themselves whether Poch’s underwhelming record at PSG is demonstrating that he is not the right man to get a team of superstars playing as a unit, which is now precisely the job that is required at Old Trafford.
Zidane’s trophy cabinet, on the other hand, suggests that he can do that very thing, but doubters argue that winning with Real Madrid in Spain is hardly as big a challenge as bringing the glory days back to Old Trafford. One subplot to that potential appointment would come in the form of how it might affect Paul Pogba‘s decision to stay, or not, at the club.
The same is true of another potential candidate, France national team coach Didier Deschamps. Only one of three men in history to have won the World Cup as both player and manager, Deschamps has an almost faultless record in management, with a testy resignation from Juventus having secured them promotion in 2006/07 being the only major blot on his copybook.
Another of the bookies’ favourites to succeed Solskjaer is Leicester City’s Brendan Rodgers. However, he would not be a popular choice with some fans, having formerly been manager of arch rivals Liverpool. Leicester’s inauspicious start to the season must also cast doubt on his ability to take on one of the biggest jobs in the football world.
Ajax’s Erik Ten Hag is also among the favourites and would certainly be welcomed by Donny van de Beek among others. Whilst he does not have ‘United DNA’ in him by experience, he is certainly a champion of youth and of attacking, flowing football, so could be an excellent choice in that regard.
With other, perhaps more risky candidates such as Dean Smith, Graham Potter and Ralph Hassenhuttl to add into the mix, there are plenty of excellent potential candidates for Solskjaer’s job should the board lose patience with him. But whether they are even close to so doing is another question.