Manchester United are facing elimination from the Champions League and manager Erik ten Hag is under intense pressure to pick up results in the coming weeks or face losing his job. Last Word on Football looks at some of the leading candidates to replace him and analyses if they would be an appropriate fit at Old Trafford.
Five Strong Candidates to Be the next Manchester United Manager
The 51-year-old enjoyed success in his two spells as Real Madrid manager. A record of 11 trophies from just 263 matches in charge is the envy of almost every manager in the modern game. The most incredible achievement was lifting three consecutive Champions League trophies between 2016-2018.
The Frenchman has not had another club job since leaving in 2021 and stated in 2022 his preference for his next club: ‘ If I return to a club it is to win. I say that with all modesty. That’s why I can’t go anywhere.’
It appears as if the World Cup winner is holding out for the French national team or Paris Saint-Germain and is not looking at this stage of his career to rebuild a side that needs the scale of work that the next Manchester United manager will need to undertake. Zidane, who retired as a player in 2006, would be able to keep the egos in check at United but may be better suited in a higher role such as Sporting Director or Director of Football.
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The former Chelsea manager struggled under the weight of expectations at Stamford Bridge. However, this should not be the only barometer of his managerial abilities. His spell at Brighton is widely commended after consolidating their place in the Premier League and leaving them after a ninth-placed finish in the 2021/22 season.
The 48-year-old is still highly regarded on these shores but it is in Sweden where he had his first taste of success. Potter spent over seven years in charge of Östersunds FK, lifting the only major honour in the club’s history with the Swedish Cup.
The Englishman displayed his tactical flexibility throughout his time managing in the Premier League and this would stand him in good stead if he were to take over as Red Devils manager. He has built a knowledge of the league but would need to win over the fans with some early success as he would likely not be the first choice among the fanbase. He has a chance to succeed in this role but would need time as it is doubtful he would hit the ground running.
This appointment would excite Manchester United fans and he would be one of the major candidates to replace Ten Hag as manager. The 36-year-old is mentioned at the top of every list for every major job when it becomes available. He has recently taken on the role of the German national team manager and may choose to stick with international football after being sacked as manager of Bayern Munich in controversial circumstances.
The former Hoffenheim manager won the Bundesliga and two German Super Cups in charge of Bayern. He also had success in charge of RB Leipzig and is waiting for the role that will catapult him into one of the world’s best coaches. If he were to take the role as Manchester United manager it may be exactly what he needs after his spell in charge of the German national team. However, this may not happen any time soon so for now Nagelsmann is likely out of the running.
Roberto De Zerbi
The current Brighton head coach has taken the Seagulls to the next level. There was scepticism about his abilities and continuing the success that his predecessor Potter had while in charge. However, he has brought the club into Europe and continues to make his team one of the most competitive in the Premier League.
The 44-year-old is yet to be tested as manager of an elite club but seems to have the tactical nous and does appear to get the very best out of his players. It would be a risk to appoint him without prior experience competing for major honours but it could also prove to be a masterstroke.
It will be interesting to see how he copes with the demands of European Football this campaign as it already looks like it may be taking a toll on him and his Brighton squad. There are far worse options out there and if Manchester United were looking for a manager to get the best out of the current squad and achieve short-term success, De Zerbi may be one of the leading candidates.
After the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it would raise serious concern among the Old Trafford faithful appointing a former player who has no managerial experience at the highest level. Carrick is currently at Middlesbrough and looking to lead the former Premier League fixture back into the top flight.
The former United midfielder was considered a key part of a successful Old Trafford side and did spend three games in charge as caretaker manager in 2021. Unfortunately for the 42-year-old he has yet to prove he would be capable of taking a job of this stature and should not be one of the first choices for the United board if Ten Hag is to depart in the coming weeks.
He would need to bring ‘Boro back into the Premier League and establish them as a Premier League side and there are more suited candidates on this list.