Reports emerged this week that Manchester United have a plan in place for how they will go about replacing iconic manger Sir Alex Ferguson when he finally decides to end his more than a quarter of a century in charge at Old Trafford.
“We have a view as to what type of manager we want and how and when we'll go about it,” said United vice chairman Ed Woodward, according to ESPN. “But it's in the drawer and long may it stay in the drawer."
Ferguson, 70, has suggested that he will remain in the job for as long as he health and enthusiasm holds up, while there have also been suggestion that he would be eager to go out on a high.
With his exit date in doubt, predicting the next United boss is not an easy task, but here are five of the current leading candidates, according to the Oddsmakers.
Pep Guardiola (2/1 — odds provided by Paddy Power)
Perhaps the appointment that would make the most sense from all angles. Guardiola demonstrated to brilliant effect during his four years at Barcelona that he shares a commitment to young players and attractive soccer that have been hallmarks of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Some have questioned his influence given the wealth of playing talent at the Camp Nou, however, one only has to look at the way in which Guardiola got so many star players to press and work as hard as they did week in and week out to see his man management skills. Tactically Guardiola was also innovative, trying to ensure that his side never stood still.
Currently enjoying a hiatus from the game in New York City, the 41-year-old has already met with members of United’s hierarchy and sees taking over from Ferguson as an attractive proposition, according to ESPN.
The only hitch may be whether Ferguson decides to retire before Guardiola has accepted a job somewhere else.
David Moyes (4/1)
In his 10 years at Everton it is certainly possible to argue that David Moyes has been, pound-for-pound, the best manager in the Premier League. The Scot has continually produced teams that punch above their weight given his tight budget constraints at Goodison Park.
While Everton have often started the season slowly during his reign before surging late, this campaign sees the Toffees in among the Champions League places early on. Criticized in the past for perceived negative tactics, Moyes also has his side playing a more attractive brand of soccer so far this term— something that is sure to be an important consideration in choosing the next boss at Old Trafford.
Appointing the 49-year-old would be something of a risk, however, given his lack of experience at the elite level. Moyes’ only experience in the Champions League to date has been exiting in the qualifying round to Villarreal back in 2005.
Jose Mourinho (5/1)
one of the main considerations in selecting someone to replace Ferguson is to find someone with the personality to be able to follow in the footsteps of a man who has led the club through unparalleled success over an extraordinarily long tenure in the modern game.
With Jose Mourinho, that fear goes completely out of the window. More so than any other manager working in the game, the Portuguese has the charisma and confidence not to be fazed by anything that is thrown at him in the early stages of succeeding Ferguson.
Mourinho has also been successful wherever he has been and shown himself to be proficient both at winning in Europe and domestically.
The concern, though, will be that Mourinho has shown himself to be something of a short-term coach rather than one focused on establishing a legacy for the club as Ferguson has done. He has yet to stay longer than three years at any club and had also has access to big money wherever he has been.
While the criticism is not wholly accurate, it is also true that Mourinho’s sides do not play with the same attacking flair that United fans may demand.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (10/1)
The Norwegian is still revered at Old Trafford for his 11 years as a player in which he established himself as a prolific goal scorer, particularly from the bench—a trait epitomized when he came on to score the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final.
After retiring through injury in 2007, Solskjaer was given a role as coach of Manchester United’s reserves before departing to take over at his former Norwegian club Molde. Solskjaer proved an instant hit in management as he led Molde to their first ever championship in his first season in charge.
Such success led to Solskjaer being linked with a return to England and the vacant managerial job at Aston Villa this summer. The 39-year-old declined the opportunity to talk with the Midlands, club, though, and he remains with Molde, who currently sit level on points with Rosenborg at the top of the Norwegian league with four games remaining.
It is likely that for Solskjaer to be seriously considered for the United job he will have to first prove a success in one of Europe’s major leagues. If he does so then he could well be very much in the thinking of United’s owners with his popularity with the United’s fans sure to ensure him an extended honeymoon period at the very least.
Ryan Giggs (14/1)
Even more so than Solskjaer, a decision to appoint United legend Giggs would represent a significant risk. The 38-year-old has made more appearances and claimed more honors than any other Manchester United player in history. Despite the fact that the Welshman will have had little or no coaching experience when the time comes to appoint the club’s next manager, Ferguson has previously suggested that he can envisage Giggs as the man to replace him.
There would be a concern, though, that with Giggs having spent his entire playing career under Ferguson, he would be too close to his mentor to be his own man.
It is essential that whoever replaces Ferguson is not daunted by the specter of their predecessor hanging over their head, whether that be in a figurative or a literal sense.