Manchester United is without a permanent head coach after the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and it’s unclear who the club can turn to at this juncture of the season. And it’s only November.
That’s the predicament in which the Red Devils find themselves as they hope to salvage a season that’s taken an early turn for the worse. Failure to advance to the Champions League knockout rounds and finish in the top four of the Premier League would constitute a failure as the club continues to stumble since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The club has given itself until the summer to name a permanent replacement, announcing that it is looking for an interim to take over until the end of the season. Presumably, Man United has an internal list of candidates for next summer. Meanwhile, names like ex-Newcastle boss Steve Bruce and former France national team coach Laurent Blanc, both former United players, are two that have surfaced for the interim role with the former seemingly a more likely option. Blanc is the coach of Al Rayyan in Qatar’s Stars League and that season ends in March 2022.
As for the permanent job, the summer presents a few options, though according to some reports, the timeline could move up in the case of one or two of the bigger names. Here are the latest odds and updates on the most talked-about candidates.
MORE: Ronaldo, De Gea react to Solskjaer’s departure
Even when Solksjaer was still on the job, reports indicated that the managerial free agent and former Real Madrid head coach was not interested. His legendary playing career gives him instant credibility and he has coached Cristiano Ronaldo in the past, getting the most out of a star-studded Madrid side. The feeling is that he could do the same for United.
But even though there are reports that he’s working on his English, it seems Zidane has his eyes on other jobs. However, he could be an important domino in the pursuit of a manager who seems more appealing (see below).
There’s no doubt who the media’s favorite is for the permanent Man United job based on the slew of reports in England. The narrative amid the speculation has quickly escalated from “Man United is interested” to “Pochettino wants the job and could move in December.”
But he’s currently at the helm of one of the most expensive teams assembled in world football, and the PSG job was exactly the kind of opportunity that Pochettino was striving for since guiding Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final with a lesser budget. With the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi at his disposal, Pochettino has the squad to deliver a first Champions League title to PSG.
MORE: Neville says Pochettino would leave PSG for Man United
For a club that reportedly turned down over $200 million from Real Madrid for soon-to-be-out-of-contract Mbappe, PSG will not just let Pochettino go. Similar to its resistance to part ways with Mbappe last summer, releasing Pochettino to move to Man United would hurt its standing as one of the rising powers in European football.
But there is one plausible scenario in which Pochettino could depart early: While PSG looks well on its way to winning the French Ligue 1 title — it has an 11-point lead in the Ligue 1 standings after 14 matches — it’s the Champions League that matters. A shocking failure to get out of the group stage could see the club make a managerial change during the winter break in December. And Frenchman Zidane would be tailor-made to replace Pochettino.
#mufc Poch is open to the United job & they could try to use the French winter break to prize him from PSG. Tuchel was replaced by Poch in last season’s winter break & it’s viewed as a possible good time for a re-set mid-season. https://t.co/8XMFdkghwm
— Dan Kilpatrick (@Dan_KP) November 22, 2021
BREAKING: Sky Sports News has been told Mauricio Pochettino would be interested in the managerial position at #MUFC
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 22, 2021
No exaggeration to say Pochettino is desperate for the #MUFC job and always has been. Still defies belief they let him slip through their fingers to join #PSG when even back then it was clear Ole was floundering.
— Alex Crook ⚽️🎙 (@alex_crook) November 22, 2021
But the end of season still seems like the most likely scenario:
There is a thinking in Spain – and on Madrid side – that things might play out so Pochettino leaves PSG at end of season to go to United and Zidane goes therehttps://t.co/vbbXOV7AAH
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) November 21, 2021
The Leicester City manager could be at the top of next summer’s wish list if Pochettino finds success at PSG over the coming months and becomes an unattainable target for Man United.
Rodgers had strong words denying the Man United links when Solskjaer was still at the helm. You can’t blame him: He has a stable position with a thriving club, a strong relationship with ownership, and plenty of resources invested in recent seasons.
After two straight fifth-place finishes in the Premier League, is there a scenario in which things could turn sour in the next six months? It’s tough to imagine, although the reports are running wild:
One outlet has already given him the Man United job:
Incoming Man Utd boss Brendan Rodgers urged to axe Cristiano Ronaldo as first job as he ‘doesn’t fit high-tempo style’https://t.co/GgpB6FZhyX
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) November 22, 2021
Erik ten Hag
If the argument is that Man United needs to find a new identity, then the Ajax Amsterdam manager would make a lot of sense. And the speculation says that the Red Devils’ board is a fan of his work.
MORE: The inside story of Solskjaer’s firing at Man United
In the case that Man United wait it out until the summer, then a Ten Hag appointment takes on a more realistic shape. The 2021-22 season could be seen as the culmination of his work with Ajax, where he has been the manager since 2017. The team is flying high in the UEFA Champions League with four wins in four matches and it’s at the top of the Eredivisie table in a tight race with the other Dutch powers.
Reports indicate the 51-year-old wouldn’t refuse the advances from England. In the meantime he says he’s focused on Ajax and this year’s quest for trophies since he hasn’t heard anything from United.
Erik ten Hag when asked if Man United don’t have to call him: “My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts” 🔴 #MUFC
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 21, 2021
Another potential manager candidate who has a clear football philosophy that he can impart on a club is the former architect of the Red Bull football empire. After his success overseeing Red Bull’s growth across multiple teams around the world, he has maintained a front-office role as the manager for sports and development at Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow.
For a few weeks the speculation has been that Rangnick could take over on an interim basis as coach, which he last did for RB Leipzig in 2019, and then transition into a role as a sporting executive in Manchester United’s administration. But with the hiring of John Murtough (football director) and Darren Fletcher (technical director) in March, it’s tough to see how Rangnick would fit into that structure.
𝐑𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐜𝐤 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧
“Agent sources and those close to the team feel an experienced man with a big reputation would be ideal to steer #MUFC through a tumultuous time.”
“Ralf Rangnick, 63, is a potential candidate.”
➡️ https://t.co/UEsUhhfmon pic.twitter.com/MyHpS2C8F9
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) November 22, 2021
Other Man United managerial candidates?
It was suggested that Sevilla coach Julien Lopetegui has a contract release clause that could put him in the game, but he called any links to the Man United job “absurd.”
Current national team managers like Roberto Martinez (Belgium) and Luis Enrique (Spain) are highly unlikely to leave their posts after leading their respective teams to qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar next November.
MORE: Luis Enrique calls Man United links an April Fool’s Day joke
And after not even earning the interim tag — he’s the caretaker until there’s an interim — it’s hard to see Michael Carrick, who served as an assistant to Solskjaer, earning another promotion.
Then again, according to one UK sportsbook with a list of permanent manager candidates (below), Carrick has the third-best odds to land the gig. Zinedine Zidane went from top of the list and ceded that spot to Pochettino, who is gaining momentum with every report. Zidane went from 3.1 odds to 11.0
|Brendan Rodgers||Leicester City||5.0|
|Michael Carrick||Man United (interim)||6.5|
|Erik ten Hag||Ajax||8.0|
|Zinedine Zidane||free agent||11.0|
|Laurent Blanc||Al Rayyan||13|
|Ralf Rangnick||Lokomotiv Moscow||13|
|Steve Bruce||free agent||17|