Why Gareth Southgate is the wrong choice as next Manchester United manager

Why Gareth Southgate is the wrong choice as next Manchester United manager
Why Gareth Southgate is the wrong choice as next Manchester United manager

If ever there was a good example of why Gareth Southgate should not be the next Manchester United manager, it came yesterday evening as his England side crashed to a humiliating 1-0 defeat to Iceland at Wembley.

The Three Lions were booed off the pitch and, as The Sun’s Dave Kidd noted, “this was an absolute shocker at Wembley, which poured ridicule on ideas that England are ready to win their first major trophy in 58 years.

“England were not just beaten by Iceland – just as they had been in the match which toasted Roy Hodgson at Euro 2016 – they were lucky to avoid a hiding.”

For United fans, it was eerily similar to watching their club side, as desperate, disorganised and toothless lunges forward meant leaving gaping holes at the back.

As we await Ineos’ decision on whether to sack Erik ten Hag, Southgate’s name as his potential replacement is well and truly in the frame.

Reports are tumbling in on how he is incoming director of football Dan Ashworth’s choice, how he is Sir Dave Brailsford’s friend and there has even been speculation that the delay in sacking Ten Hag could be linked to waiting for Southgate to get Euro 2024 done before he can be appointed.

Popular with Ineos he may be, but popular with United fans? Absolutely not. An article in The Mail in March offered a clear snapshot of fan opinion, with hardly a single argument to be seen in the article, or in the 173 comments, in favour of the former Crystal Palace man taking the helm at Old Trafford.

One of the reasons fans are concerned is the uninspiring choices Southgate has made for his England squads. Most would agree that this is a golden generation for England yet the manager’s squad selections have always been controversial, often with “steady Eddies” such as Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips and Eric Dier and few flair players.

For the Euros, GiveMeSport put together an alternate team of players left out by Southgate, featuring such names as Reece James, James Ward-Prowse, James Maddison, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford. Of course, each decision can be justified, but if England need a bit of magic to turn a game, will seeing Jarrod Bowen, Adam Wharton and Anthony Gordon warming up be terrifying England’s opponents? When it could be Rashford, Sancho and Grealish?

The pedestrian, defensive and negative style of football Southgate employs for England is another big reason that he would be an unpopular choice at United. A team with Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Harry Kane in it, with great wingers such as Saka, Rashford, Grealish and Sancho, is an irresistible attacking force that should be the envy of the rest of Europe. Add to that strength in depth such as Cole Palmer, Kobbie Mainoo, Ivan Toney and half of Manchester City’s treble-winning defence in John Stones and Kyle Walker, England should be odds-on favourites to win the Euros. Imagine a team like that managed by Terry Venables, Bobby Robson or even Sven-Goran Eriksen. Yet Southgate somehow manages to turn gold into, well, a less valuable product.

Some fans believe Southgate exhibits a lot of favouritism in his squad selections, too. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho seem to never have been forgiven for missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final – the perfect example of a match that would never have gone to penalties had Southgate adopted a more positive approach. By contrast, other stars have been forgiven for many mistakes and bad performances. This sort of perceived unfairness can cause huge problems at club level, as Ten Hag himself found out last season.

With just a few years as a club manager at Middlesbrough, where he averaged 1.21 points per game and suffered relegation, surely plunging Southgate into the biggest job in football would be ludicrous. Club management is a completely different beast from international management. Yes, in managing England, Southgate has gained experience of working with big stars with big egos. But it is one thing doing that for tournament football and another doing it week in, week out over the course of a domestic season.

Lack of popularity, lack of experience, lack of attacking football, dubious team selections, lack of success and lack of charisma: if Ineos are genuinely even considering making Gareth Southgate the next manager of Manchester United, even if he were to defy expectations and lead England to unexpected glory in Germany this summer, United fans should be worried. Very worried.

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