Tactician, disciplinarian or wildcard? The choice Manchester United must make about next manager

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The types of manager Man Utd could go after - and which candidates would fit those categories
The types of manager Man Utd could go after - and which candidates would fit those categories

You could argue that it is job done for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Sure the unbeaten away record is gone, the players are beginning to implicitly criticise him and the trophy cabinet has the same number of shelves as when he took over.

But it is easy to forget the woe enveloping United in the latter days of Jose Mourinho’s residency at the Lowry Hotel. The overall lift in mood under the Norwegian has turned the club into one which dares to dream again, albeit cautiously.

It is likely ‘job done’ in another sense, though. After defeat to Leicester on Saturday Solskjaer’s exit at some point this season is beginning to feel as inevitable as Steve Bruce’s.

If United chose to dispense with their manager tomorrow what sort of replacement would they be after?

The arch tactician

Ajax’s Erik ten Hag may be ready for a new challenge after four years in Amsterdam and could rehabilitate his former star Donny van de Beek to solve United’s troublesome midfield. Barcelona are allegedly sniffing around too, so United may need to act quickly.

Ralf Rangnick is considered the godfather of the current generation of high intensity pressing merchants. If United want their Klopp or Tuchel why not go to the source? Currently at Lokomotiv Moscow as Head of Sports and Development. Lokomotiv Moscow is apparently now a sixth form college.

The iron fist

Antonio Conte ticks many boxes. Has thrived in the Premier League, is out of work, has very shiny shoes. Would bring discipline, pained shouting and surely would not stand for any nonsense like United’s unwanted new habit of conceding from set pieces.

The worry would be that United tried similar with Mourinho, which bummed everyone out so much that the club applied their Solskjaer nostalgia plaster. You can’t re-appoint Solskjaer every time the bad shouty man upsets the under-performing social media influencers.

Antonio Conte is a vocal figure on the touchline - REUTERS
Antonio Conte is a vocal figure on the touchline - REUTERS

The A-lister

For a manager who has won the Champions League three times there is still an air of suspicion about Zinedine Zidane. His critics argue that his Real Madrid squad was so good they effectively managed themselves.

Perhaps that might be perfect for a United team heavy on stars, egos and Cristiano Ronaldo? Let them solve their own problems, and Zidane can stare on impassively next to the redbricked dugouts in another Mogwai-soundtracked arthouse film.

That approach would not solve the increasingly clear organisational deficiencies in this team, nor the fact that some difficult conversations may be needed when one of Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba needs to miss a game for the good of team cohesion.

Ghost of Old Trafford managerial gossip past Mauricio Pochettino may be better at this, and would be something of a coup if prised away from PSG. Unfortunately the early signs from Paris are he may not be much of an ego-wrangler.

The young buck

The Julian Nagelsmann bus probably left this summer when the German joined Bayern Munich from Energy Drink Leipzig. Tough to imagine he would walk out on the forever champions of the Bundesliga after half a season for the chance to work with Fred.

Graham Potter is 12 years older than Nagelsmann but still a relative youngster in the managerial classes. His work at Brighton has been impressive but David Moyes’s work at Everton was significantly more impressive over a longer period of time and how did that pan out?

Graham Potter's Brighton are currently one point - and two places - above Man Utd in the Premier League table - NMC POOL
Graham Potter's Brighton are currently one point - and two places - above Man Utd in the Premier League table - NMC POOL

The wild card

Could United just cut to the chase and give Cristiano Ronaldo the job until the end of the season? May be a similar situation to Zidane - a respected (feared) leader who would not necessarily have to hatch clever tactical plans, just hope he can lead by example and score endless slow-motion headers like in that advert for the score app.

If those running the club are keen to placate fans upset about Solskjaer’s departure then skipping to the next revered hero off the ranks could work. Equally, could be a total disaster.

And if every managerial appointment is a reaction to the failures of the previous one, then why not follow the popularity of a United legend by employing someone associated with one of the big rivals?

Could Marcelo Bielsa be persuaded to do a Cantona? Has it been long enough yet since Brendan Rodgers managed Liverpool? What’s Vincent Kompany up to these days?