Assessing the candidates to replace Solskjaer at Man United

Who will be next? Zidane knows how to conquer Europe while Rodgers, Pochettino and Ten Hag all have admirers at Old Trafford (and what about player-boss Ronaldo?)… Assessing the candidates to replace Solskjaer at Manchester United

  • READ: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been SACKED as Manchester United boss 
  • Ex-Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is one of the favourites to replace  him 
  • Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag all names in the frame
  • You can even get odds of 19/1 on Cristiano Ronaldo to become player-manager 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been sacked after his Manchester United tenure reached a new low as they were thrashed 4-1 by Watford on Saturday afternoon.

The Norwegian had already called their 5-0 hammering by Liverpool his ‘darkest day’ last month, but his turbulent reign was dealt another damaging blow – and for United it proved a painful step too far.

Rumours and speculation are already swirling about who might be appointed to replace Solskjaer, with the bookmakers identifying a number of prominent names as the favourite.

The former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is the clear favourite for the job, while Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag are other names in the frame to arrive at Old Trafford.

We assess to pros and cons of each of the main contenders to replace Solskjaer at United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been sacked by Manchester United after a 4-1 loss to Watford 

Zinedine Zidane

Odds: 21/10 (provided by Betfair)

Pros: Just the one managerial post for Zidane, 49, in two spells, to date but he certainly made a glorious success of it.

Three successive Champions League wins with Real Madrid as well as two league titles certainly provides a glowing CV for any prospective employer to mull over.

United are a long way off winning the Champions League at the moment but a big name like Zidane would certainly inspire optimism that the glory days could soon return.

Zidane has a great relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo from their time together at the Bernabeu and, showing he hadn’t lost any of his own class, the manager would be seen pinging in crosses for his talisman to convert in training.

Zinedine Zidane, currently not in a job, is one of the leading candidates to take over at United

He also knows Raphael Varane well from his time at Real and wanted to bring Paul Pogba to the club on several occasions. United’s current squad would be appealing to him, there may not be the need for expensive additions.

Players respect Zidane’s genius and respond to his methods as a result. He certainly created a good chemistry within the dressing room at Real Madrid despite the presence of plenty of egos.

Cons: Obviously Zidane has to date only coached in Spain, so the Premier League would be a completely new challenge for him. We don’t know whether he will take to it well or it could take more time to get up to speed.

Another criticism of him was that he never developed young academy graduates at Real Madrid – it has taken Carlo Ancelotti to mould the likes of Vinicius and Rodrygo, making them first-team quality.

Zidane would certainly work well with Cristiano Ronaldo, following great success at Real

At a club like United, which has always placed great faith in youth, it wouldn’t be a popular move with fans if the likes of Mason Greenwood or Amad Diallo found opportunities more restricted.

And despite Real’s considerable success under Zidane, it wasn’t always by playing the most attractive football. Some of their performances even in winning the 2019-20 title were lacklustre.

At this point, however, United’s fans probably don’t care how they win, so long as they do.

Brendan Rodgers

Odds: 13/5

Pros: One of the most widely respected managers in the Premier League, Rodgers took Liverpool to the brink of the title in 2014, won plenty of silverware in Scotland with Celtic and has done a fine job at Leicester.

The 48-year-old is a true student of the game and is known for innovation in coaching methods and tactics. He could be relied upon to keep the players interested on the training ground and forge a togetherness in the dressing room.

That was certainly evident this season when Leicester beat Man United 4-2. The Foxes worked as a cohesive team with a clear sense of mission while United played as a disjointed group of individuals.

It’s true it may take a little time to develop but United’s hierarchy could easily look at the way Leicester continue to punch upwards – narrowly missing out on Champions League football in consecutive seasons and winning the FA Cup.

Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers is one of the most respected bosses in the Premier League

If Rodgers could do the same with a higher calibre of player, it could lead to success. You also sense he wouldn’t be as demanding in terms of drastic changes to the squad.

Cons: Rodgers has put up barriers already by committing his future to Leicester and was recently scratchy to the media when asked about taking the United job.

He said: ‘There’s two things. Firstly it is really disrespectful to ask the question when you have a manager in place, a good manager and a good man, who is working hard at the club. 

‘Secondly I can’t really comment on it, because it is not something that is real.

‘I am here as the Leicester City manager, proud to be here, privileged to be here and fully committed to the players, the club, the ownership. That’s about it, all the other noise around that is something we can’t control.’ 

Rodgers won Leicester the FA Cup for the first time in their history by beating Chelsea 

He also wouldn’t come cheap. Leicester would demand an expensive compensation payment for a manager committed to them until 2025.

Rodgers has a good CV but it isn’t as good as Zidane. He hasn’t won a Premier League or European honours though you wouldn’t put any of that beyond his capabilities given time.

It could hinge on whether United feel they need immediate success this season or next, or are prepared to accept steady progress.

Rodgers coming in would feel like more of a longer-term project as opposed to a manager like Zidane delivering quick fixes. His stock has also fallen this term with Leicester struggling an in mid table.

There will be plenty of arguments that maybe they should have kept faith with Solskjaer, at the helm for almost three years and making slow but definite progress, rather than starting that process all over again.

Erik ten Hag

Odds: 10/1

Pros: Ten Hag’s name continues to crop up whenever a vacancy comes up around Europe and the current Ajax manager is certainly an intriguing candidate.

Success has come his way in the Eredivisie with two league titles – and he did guide Ajax to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019, losing to Pochettino’s Spurs.

Every football fan would love to see their team replicate the famous Ajax way of playing and you only have to look at displays such as last week’s 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund to see how Ten Hag is a true disciple. 

Erik ten Hag on the training ground at Ajax, where they have achieved plenty of recent success

Ten Hag on the sidelines during Ajax’s 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund last month

Whether he could take that template and apply it to United is another matter entirely but there is the promise of an exciting brand of football.

Ten Hag is contracted to Ajax until 2023 but is likely to be easier to extract from his position than Pochettino or Rodgers. United may be in a bad patch but they’re still an appealing prospect if the Dutchman wanted the role.

Cons: Everything comes with the caveat of ‘it’s only the Eredivisie’ which may seem harsh but the Premier League is a completely different beast.

It could take him some time to adapt and United certainly can’t afford to slip back and miss out on the Champions League places at the end of the season if they change managers.

Ten Hag had been linked with the job at Newcastle United, but he turned them down despite the pull of their Saudi-led ownership, and has insisted he is happy continuing in Amsterdam.

Mauricio Pochettino

Odds: 18/1

Pros: Let’s not forget there was a likelihood Pochettino would come in as the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho until United bowed to popular sentiment in March 2019 and made Solskjaer’s interim role permanent.

The Argentine was in the middle of his good work at Tottenham at the time, helping them reach the Champions League final that season before things quickly unravelled a few months later.

He was seen as the perfect candidate to restore United after the toxic end to Mourinho’s tenure, a popular and progressive coach who’d worked wonders at Spurs without quite winning anything.

Mauricio Pochettino could well have been United manager after Jose Mourinho in 2019

But with United’s resources and a better squad, surely that would happen at Old Trafford? In the end, Pochettino was given similar at Paris Saint-Germain though it hasn’t always looked an easy fit.

That’s why he still appears on shortlists for the United job though it would take a sizeable wedge of cash to pay off the Parisians and Pochettino might feel he wants to prove himself there first.

He would be a popular appointment though, would promise an exciting brand of football and wouldn’t moan too much if he wasn’t handed £100million to spend next summer.

Cons: As mentioned, he wouldn’t come cheap even though his PSG deal only runs until 2023. Besides, why would he want to leave one of Europe’s foremost teams right now? United represent a step down.

There’s also the lingering sense that it would take a good amount of time for Pochettino to elevate United to a level where they can compete. He may want to reshape the team completely in his own image, requiring patience and money.

Pochettino led Tottenham to the Champions League final but has yet to land a major honour

It took Pochettino three or four years at Tottenham to get them to a level to compete for trophies. United would start from a higher base but we still don’t really know whether Poch has what it takes to win major honours.

Compared to proven winners such as Conte and Zidane, Poch represents a less certain option. The 49-year-old probably will be United manager one day but this might not be the right moment.

P.S. What about Cristiano Ronaldo?

Odds: 50/1

It looks like a long shot now, but with Ronaldo carrying this team on so many occasions this season, there have been murmurings of the Portuguese star taking leadership of the side for the rest of the season.

At one point, Ronaldo had odds as short as 19/1 and was sixth favourite to take over, but those odds have now plummeted. 

Some might say the 36-year-old probably rules the dressing room anyway so managing the team would be a natural next step. He’d almost certainly make himself the first name on every teamsheet.

Ronaldo would definitely ensure the highest of standards both on and off the pitch but it’s hard to believe he would do anything that diminished his chances of scoring more goals and smashing more records in the final years of his career.

Could Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly transform United’s fortunes as a player-coach?

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