With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on shaky ground at Man United, who are the top candidates to replace him?

Ryan Bailey

It seems that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s days as Manchester United manager are numbered. The Red Devils have taken only 14 points from their last 15 Premier League games, and following a feckless 1-0 defeat at Newcastle last weekend, they sit just two points above the relegation zone.

United are a shadow of the club around which Sir Alex Ferguson created a dynasty, and it is certainly true that many of the club’s problems have nothing to do with Solskjaer. But the former United striker, whose previous Premier League managerial experience is limited to relegating Cardiff City, appears to have taken a job that is beyond his limitations.

Here’s the top five candidates for the Old Trafford hot seat, starting with a gaffer who is also under threat of losing his current employment status.

Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur operate on a mid-table budget, pay only two of their players over $122,000 per week, and are having to subsidize a fantastic (but overly expensive) new stadium. In the past few seasons, however, they have managed consistent top four finishes, while making an unlikely journey to the Champions League Final last season.

They are an underdog among the continental giants who bat way above their average — and that is mostly down to one man: Mauricio Pochettino.

Mauricio Pochettino seems like a logical choice to take over Manchester United should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lose his job. (AP)
Mauricio Pochettino seems like a logical choice to take over Manchester United should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lose his job. (AP)

But the Argentine’s magic in North London is fading. Spurs have lost 13 of their last 29 games and 17 times total in the calendar year 2019. The high press and fearsome physical style on which they built their success has been absent in recent outings. And Poch has made no secret of his displeasure with the lack of investment in the team. It seems that his time at Tottenham may have run its course.

It’s also true that Poch should already be Manchester United manager.

The 47-year-old was consistently linked with the job as Jose Mourinho’s tenure neared its end. He would likely have been offered the gig over the summer, with lucrative terms, if United’s board hadn’t jumped the gun and prematurely given the full-time position to Solskjaer in March.

One may ask why he would leave a Tottenham team he has lifted for the proverbial dumpster fire at Old Trafford, but United match his ambitions. They are a club with pedigree, who would give him the financial support to bring them back to glory.

He is a natural fit, and his current circumstances at Spurs make him the obvious favorite to succeed Ole with the bookmakers.

Massimiliano Allegri

Forty percent of Premier League titles in the past decade have been won by Italian managers — and few from the world of calcio can offer a resume as impressive as Max Allegri’s.

After leading AC Milan to Serie A glory, Allegri spent five seasons at Juventus, where he won five more league titles, four Italian Cups and reached two Champions League finals. The 52-year-old knows exactly how to handle big egos and a big club, and he could be the man to revert United back to their glory days.

Best of all, the Italian is available, having stepped down last summer after winning four consecutive Italian league/cup doubles. While some sources say he would like his sabbatical to continue for the remainder of the season, the Gazetta Dello Sport (via The Express) claims United will need to offer him the job before December to secure his services.

Counting against Allegri is his lack of experience in the English game, and an accusation that his success only comes when he has extraordinary talent and good chemistry at his disposal. (His career at Milan tailed off when big stars were allowed to leave, which doesn’t bode well for his ability to rouse United’s patchwork squad to life.)

Allegri’s tactical outlook also may not be desirable for a fan base who regularly scream “Attack! Attack! Attack!” from the stands. He does not play the de rigueur style of fast-paced pressing. His is a more conservative style of build-up play. For fans who have watched tepid action under the likes of Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal, this may not be appetizing.

Would former AC Milan and Juventus manager Max Allegri succeed in the Premier League? (Getty)
Would former AC Milan and Juventus manager Max Allegri succeed in the Premier League? (Getty)

Brendan Rodgers

There is only one team that looks likely to break up the hegemony of the Premier League “Big Six” this season, and it’s Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City.

Since taking over eight months ago, the Ulsterman has transformed the Foxes into a disciplined and well-drilled side, who play some of the most attractive soccer in the league. His forays into the transfer market have been smart and Leciester are exceeding expectation to a level not seen since … well, since they really exceeded all of our expectations.

Rodgers came desperately close to Premier League glory with Liverpool in 2014, and he is ambitious and talented enough to take on a project as daunting as United. The manner in which he left Celtic — shortly before leading them to a potential Scottish treble — may suggest that he will have no qualms abandoning his duties at the King Power Stadium if a higher calling comes.

Erik ten Hag

United didn’t have have an overly positive experience with the last Dutch manager they hired, and Erik ten Hag is being regarded as a left-field choice for the role. But he might actually be the smartest choice of them all.

At Ajax, the 49-year-old has forged a reputation for being through and improving young players, which is a huge boon for a club like United that has prided itself on developing academy talent. He took a once-in-a-generation team to a Dutch double last season, while garnering huge transfer fees for diamonds-in-the-rough like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt.

His fast-paced, attacking brand of soccer would be well suited to Old Trafford and the Premier League. He could also bring with him Ajax chief executive and former Edwin Van der Sar. The much-loved former United keeper could form an integral part of a back-room restructure.

Ten Hag may lack the experience of some other candidates, but he would certainly bring a long-forgotten air of excitement back to the Theatre of Dreams.

Julian Nagelsmann

Shortly before Manchester United won the Premier League with their infamous Class of ‘92, BBC pundit Alan Hansen famously said: “You’ll never win anything with kids.”

At 32 years old, RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann is very much a kid in the context of the management game (and two years younger than United captain Ashley Young).

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However, Nagelsmann forged his reputation in the Bundesliga by bringing Hoffenheim from the brink of relegation to the Champions League in the space of two seasons. His Leipzig side have provided a consistent challenge to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, while holding their own on the European stage. He is known for using innovative methods and technology in training, while encouraging an exciting and dynamic style on the field.

Since Ferguson departed, United have experimented with an established Premier League name, a fashionable trophy winner, an elder statesman and a few former players. Perhaps it’s time to roll the dice on a young and exciting manager from the Bundesliga. That strategy certainly worked for Liverpool.

And according to the Daily Mail, Nagelsmann is being considered by the United hierarchy.

There are plenty of other names in the mix for the job — Laurent Blanc, Gareth Southgate, Michael Carrick, Rafa Benitez, even Arsene Wenger have shorter odds — but Nagelsmann could be a hugely successful choice.

He is destined for an excellent career. It remains to be seen whether a portion of it will be spent in Manchester.

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