As the final whistle blew at Vicarage Road, the mood around Manchester United grew darker. A 4-1 defeat to Watford was the final straw for the board and Joel Glazer. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s three-year dream was over, and so was Manchester United’s long-held fantasy of the Norweigan.
The club never imagined they would need to make such a call this season. They were so confidant of his abilities, despite all the prior warning signs, that they handed him a three-year contract in the summer.
Now, Manchester United are stuck without a succession plan, any idea of what they want or need. Circumstances may lead to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward delaying his departure.
The Athletic report that Woodward, transfer chief Matt Judge and football director John Murtough are in charge of finding Solksjaer’s replacement. Others say technical director Darren Fletcher is involved in the process.
No matter, the club will either follow through with an interim manager for the remainder of the season, as the club statement stated, or they will follow through with another change of tact and secure a sudden longer-term replacement.
How Manchester United proceed is anyone’s guess.
Manchester United’s Next Manager: Those Tipped to Replace Ole Gunnar Solksjaer
Almost always caught in the rumours at old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino is deemed to be the most likely candidate to take over the Manchester United pedestal eventually.
A series of reports either suggests he is interested in the job once the season finishes, or he is happy to switch Paris for Manchester now. BBC Sport is one of the outlets stating the latter.
By assessing the situation blankly, many questions will immediately come apparent. Why leave Paris? Why leave the guaranteed success of Paris Saint Germain? Why leave Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe? Why leave a situation where winning the Champions League is in touching distance?
Well, as BBC Sport says, Pochettino’s family remains in London and he is currently based in a hotel. Beyond the personal element, PSG’s structure and politics mean he is far from the influential figure he once was at Tottenham Hotspurs. Sporting director Leonardo is in charge, with Pochettino as more of an adviser. Similarly, the culture of the club revolves around their superstars and not what is best for the team.
United were showing confidence in acquiring the Argentine but this may have changed since. During the pre-match press conference of PSG’s trip to Manchester City, Pochettino dismissed the rumours linking him to the job. It is also reported PSG has rejected United’s initial approach for their head coach.
Erik ten Hag
Moving across to the Netherlands, Erik ten Hag was in demand by Tottenham fans when Nuno Espírito Santo’s demise became apparent. A month later, he is on the wishlist as a possible permanent replacement.
The only catch is United would need to wait until the summer because Hag has remained bluntly committed to Ajax.
“We have a brilliant squad, we want to fight for titles.,” he said after beating RKC Waalwijk on Sunday. “My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts. I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too.
“You keep asking me [about my position as Ajax manager], yes it is a weird question. I heard nothing about [United’s interest], so I can’t think about it.”
The possibility of an ex-Liverpool manager joining Manchester United in the same role would be unprecedented. The likelihood of that happening, however, is a different matter.
Despite Leicester City suffering a below-average season so far, there has been no indication that the relationship between board and manager has deteriorated. Rodgers doubled down further on his priorities before Chelsea visited the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve not been as consistent as what we have been. We can have a period of time now where we can get to work,” he said.
“My own commitment, I’ve got a huge respect for (chariman) Khun Top and the protection of his legacy. My relationship with him, (chief executive) Susan Whelan and (football officer) Jon Rudkin, we’re together and we’re looking to push on.
“I feel I’m in the right place. I work with a calibre of players we’re trying to maximise their potential. That’s why I’m so happy here.
“It’s interesting you talk about the top four, it shows the strides this squad has made. Our aim is to arrive in European football. There is still a long way to go, it’s still early in the season. My focus is on the next game.”
Right now, if United were to push for Rodgers, they would either need to wait for his situation to unfold, wait for the summer or pay a compensation fee.
One possible interim replacement that Manchester United could push for is Ernesto Valverde. The former Barcelona head coach has been approached by the club and may prove to be a suitable filler option if Pochettino cannot be secured. At this point in time, Sky Sport say he is the most likely option for Manchester United.
The former Manchester United player is viewed as a strong candidate to take over the role on an interim basis. Blanc has almost spent a year being the head coach of Qatari side Al-Rayyan and has not had a coaching job in Europe since PSG sacked him in 2016.
The draw to the Frenchman stems from his decent resume, with title wins at Bordeaux and PSG, managing at the top of game, his relationship with Manchester United and club director Sir Alex Ferguson.
Football Insider report that the club was due to hold preliminary talks with the ex-France manager on Monday and they believe that the full-time job could be offered to him if he impresses. In any case, Blanc may want to be assured he has a role if he does not acquire it towards the end of the season. Compensation would also need to be paid to Al-Rayyan if United settle for Blanc.
Ralf Rangnick is also another possibility mentioned across football circles. He is believed to be the preferred option if they cannot land Pochettino. Yet, the cost of such a move is unknown.
The former Leipzig manager is currently occupated in the sporting development department at Lokomotiv Moscow. He signed a three-year contract in the summer, so United will need to bear the brunt of compensating the club and Rangnick.
The only chance of the 63-year-old accepting the role would be if a follow-up job in the upper echelons of the club was agreed upon. Again, this brings doubts of how willing United would be to offer Rangnick such a position.
Another interim alternative is former Lyon and Marseille manager Rudi Garcia. It is reported that United have interviewed the Frenchman for the interim role.
Garcia’s record of improving teams in a brief stint is displayed with taking Lyon from 14th to the French Cup final and Champions League semi-final, beating Manchester City in the process, and taking 15th-placed Marseille to the Europa League final. He also led Roma to consecutive second-place finishes below Juventus after they were hovering around the seventh and eighth position.
The former Manchester United captain is an incredibly very unlikely choice. However, The Athletic state that Steve Bruce is believed to be interested in the job. He believes that he could heal the dressing room tensions that engulfed the end of Solksjaer’s reign.
Julen Lopetegui and Unai Emery
Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui has denied he is in the running to be the next Manchester United manager. He went as far as to say the rumours were “absurd” to him in his pre-match press conference against Wolfsburg.
However, this has not stopped talking to persist. Bild reporter Christian Falk believes Lopetegui’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has been in contact about the possibility. Other than that, there is not much else regarding Lopetegui’s future.
The same cannot be said for Villareal manager Unai Emery. The former Arsenal manager has also been linked to the job via Falk’s reporting, though contact between the two parties is yet to happen. Emery pulled out of the Newcastle job earlier this month after a leak exposed he had an interview with the club.
Emery was responsible for beating Solksjaer’s United in the Europa League final in May – a moment that is believed to be the beginning of the end for the Norweigan.
Out of the Race
The first to dismiss themselves from being Solksjaer’s successor is Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman has no interest in managing in the Premier League. It is likely he is waiting for the French national team position to up as there is little confirmation if Didier Deschamps will continue post-2022 World Cup. Also, if Pochettino does eventually switch Paris for Manchester, PSG may sound out 49-year-old as his replacement.
Likewise, Spanish head coach Luis Enrique will not be considering the job. It was unlikely that he would switch the national team role for Manchester while a World Cup is a year away and the team is in a healthy position.