It appears that those in charge at Old Trafford have finally seen enough. According to widespread reports on Monday, a 2-0 defeat to Everton has proven the final straw for Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, and vice-president, Ed Woodward, with manager David Moyes set to be relieved of his duties any time now.
The BBC is among the outlets reporting that, while Manchester United have denied that Moyes has been sacked, they refused to comment on speculation that he soon will be. ESPN have been told by sources that he will be fired “imminently.”
It is news that is greeted both with surprise and a sense of inevitability. Surprise in that the club has always stated that Moyes is their manager for the long term, with the plan that they will honor the commitment they showed by handing him a six-year contract last summer. Yet, to anyone who has watched Manchester United toil on the pitch week after week during this dismal season, the only surprise is that Moyes has not gone sooner.
With qualification for the Champions League now mathematically impossible, United can already begin planning for next season. The club has apparently decided that Moyes is not the man to lead the club forward and be handed the responsibility of spending the vast amount of money that is thought to be available this summer.
Here are five managers to which United may now turn.
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The charismatic Borussia Dortmund manager must surely be the leading candidate for the role. He ticks all the boxes. While Moyes played sterile, pragmatic football, Klopp is the polar opposite. Like Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest sides, Klopp’s Dortmund have been a thrilling, counter-attacking force. He has also shown an ability to construct a side around young talent, another tradition at Old Trafford. Klopp’s vibrant, bold personality should also ensure that he is not shrunken by the role as Moyes painfully has been.
The problem is that Klopp is unlikely to be available. Only in the past few days, Klopp, who has a contract until 2018, reaffirmed his commitment to Dortmund, saying he was “still a bit in love with this club.” Leading German football writer Raphael Honigstein has claimed that there is next to zero chance that Klopp will move to Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal
Could it be that Manchester United are moving now to dispense for Moyes in order to secure Van Gaal? The veteran coach has been widely reported to have all but sealed a deal to take over at Tottenham once he leaves his post as Netherlands manager after the World Cup, but the chance to manage United could surely sway Van Gaal at the last.
Certainly there are few managers in the European game who have the lofty credentials of Van Gaal for one of the most prestigious jobs in world soccer. A Champions League winner with a glorious, young Ajax team in 1995, Van Gaal has gone on to win two La Liga titles with Barcelona, a first ever league crown for AZ Alkmaar and a Bundesliga crown and Champions League final with Bayern Munich. All the while he has been committed to an attacking, attractive style.
Yet the stubborn approach to his playing style is also transmitted to all areas of his coaching work. Often regarded as a difficult personality and one with a tendency to rub people the wrong way, Van Gaal would be an interesting choice for United that’s for sure. He is also unlikely to be the type of coach who they wanted to lead the club for the long term in the manner of Ferguson. But rumors, at the time denied by United, that they met with Van Gaal recently now take on a different light. He is perhaps the most qualified available option.
Like Van Gaal, Ancelotti would be seen as another safe pair of hands to quickly restore United to what they believe is their rightful standing, although not a coach for the long term. Of course Ancelotti is still gainfully employed at another of the world’s greatest clubs, Real Madrid. And the Italian still has a chance to complete the treble this season, including delivering Madrid their much-coveted 10th European Cup. Yet it is only a few weeks since Ancelotti’s job was seen as being under threat after just one season in charge. If things go wrong in the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich and in Madrid’s remaining La Liga games, it is far from inconceivable that a trigger-happy Madrid will look elsewhere.
Ancelotti’s credentials are mightily impressive: he has won league titles in three countries and claimed two Champions League crowns while at Milan. He is, perhaps, not a tactical visionary, but rather someone who tries to adapt his approach to the players he has at his disposal. That may appeal to a United board who were facing a massive overhaul of the squad if Moyes remained in charge.
Simeone has utterly transformed Atletico Madrid from an under-achieving mess to an over-achieving force of nature in such a short space of time that it would be incredible were he not to have come under consideration at United. In contrast to Moyes, Simeone cuts an imposing figure who would command immediate respect from both players and supporters, even those who remember his part in famously helping to get former United idol David Beckham sent off in the 1998 World Cup.
However, United would present a vastly different challenge to that of Atletico. While at Atletico, Simeone has used the club’s underdog status to his advantage. His team play with an incredible intensity and aggression and like to strike on the counter attack. While he has refined his tactics during his reign, he would have to do so further at Old Trafford. There is also the question of whether Simeone would want to leave a club where he has an intense emotional connection.
Another of Europe’s brightest young managers. Like Simone, Conte has rejuvenated a club to which he has long-held close ties. The former Italy midfielder is on the verge of securing a third straight Serie A title with Juventus, the club’s first championships since the Calciopoli scandal. Conte, though, has yet to succeed in the Champions League. Juventus bowed out with huge disappointment at the group stage this season, having exited at the quarterfinal stage last term. Conte will likely want to take Juventus to their former glory on the continent before he seeks a fresh challenge, while his record in Europe could also cause the United’s board to have doubts about his credentials.
The short-term options
If Moyes is relieved of his duties before the end of the season then a short-term solution will have to be sought. Sir Alex Ferguson’s return may well be the popular choice, though, with little to play for now for the remainder of the season, it is unlikely to be seen as worthwhile to bring Ferguson out of retirement given all the complications and attention that will bring. The majority of Moyes’s coaching staff was brought in by him from Everton and thus will surely follow him out the door. The one exception is Ryan Giggs. The 40-year-old has been taking his coaching badges, and has been a part of the staff this season, despite still continuing his playing role. A club legend, Giggs would immediately unite both players and fans for the remainder of the campaign before possibly staying on at the club in a coaching capacity under a new permanent manager.