José Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year tenure as Manchester United manager came to an end on Tuesday morning after the club announced his departure.
The Red Devils have endured a nightmare campaign so far. With Champions League qualification slowly slipping from their grip, they decided that a change was needed sooner rather than later.
The club’s legendary striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was announced as the Portuguese’s interim replacement until the end of the season.
Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is hoping to land a long-term option who can prioritise the adoption of attacking, winning football as well as the development of youth. So, who are the candidates most likely to be in the hot seat at the beginning of the 2019/20 season?
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is the club’s reported number one target. That cannot be surprising given how he has transformed Spurs into a serious Champions League team under a relatively shoestring budget. He has demonstrated a knack for giving youth a chance and developing them into strong first team players. His capacity for longevity also makes him a strongly attractive prospect. It will not be easy to prise him away from North London.
Conflicting stories in the last few months have made it unclear whether former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane would be interested in taking over at Old Trafford. The Frenchman won an incredible three Champions League titles and one La Liga trophy in less than three seasons at the Bernabeu. He also won praise for his man-management qualities, something that has been sorely missed at United under Mourinho. Unlike Pochettino, he is currently unattached and negotiations with him would be much more straightforward.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is an underdog in the race for the permanent position of United manager, but he will soon have a head-start over his more illustrious rivals. With a massively talented squad at his disposal, he could put himself in the driving seat for appointment in the long-term by turning the team’s fortunes around this season. Champions League qualification has to be the aim for the “baby-faced assassin” and he could win significant bonus points by going far in the competition in the current campaign.
It would be amiss for any conversation about a vacant managerial job at a top club to pass without the mention of Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone. Like Pochettino, Simeone has done an incredible job of establishing a “slightly-above average” team into a European powerhouse.
Even more remarkably, his achievements have come in the face of the supreme power of Barcelona and city rivals Real. He is also one to think long-term, but his slightly conservative football philosophy has echoes of Mourinho and therefore puts him on the back foot for the moment.