In The Pulpit: A look at the possible future Manchester United managers

A lot has been written recently about the possibility of Mourinho leaving United in the near future. Some of it on this very site, including last week’s In The Pulpit. In fact, scroll down on our homepage and you’ll see quite a few angry opinion pieces.

Whenever Mourinho’s possible departure is discussed, there is often a question asked at the end: who next? The scary thing is, a lot of the time the answer is a blank stare, there is seemingly no one out there who can take on the United job.

Fear not, dear reader! Below I have compiled a list of more than seven possible future managers. I believe each of them would be an improvement on our current manager, even though they all have different ways of approaching management.

So sit back, relax and dream of a possible future where United are managed by one of these bad boys:

The Bastard – Diego Simeone

Seemingly always at the top of any list of possible future managers in the Premier League, Simeone is clearly a man in demand.

‘Cholo’ has been nothing short of incredible at Atletico Madrid, establishing them firmly as the third biggest team in the league, getting to two Champions League finals and biggest of all, winning the title in 2014. Add to that his manic passion on the touchline and the strong bond he builds with the fans and he could quickly become a favourite at Old Trafford.

However, he could almost be called Mourinho Mk II. He plays a very robust style of football, often a structured 4-4-2, that can sometimes be a boring watch. He also demands complete loyalty from his players and works them into the ground. This might not be the appropriate way to man manage the current United squad, who seem to need more love and attention than Simeone might provide.

Plus, he got Beckham sent off in 98, which I’m not sure I’m ready to forgive him for.

The Developer – Mauricio Pochettino

Very much the English media’s pick for the next United manager, Mauricio Pochettino looks like the next big thing. He famously hasn’t yet won a trophy a Spurs, but the job he has done there is very admirable one. With comparatively little investment, he has made them an established top four side and undoubtedly the best side in North London.

As well as all the above, he has managed to blood several young, English players and would surely relish the opportunity to work with the famed United academy. His teams also play an attractive style of football, equally adept at both keeping the ball and counter-attacking against tougher opponents.

For some, the fact he hasn’t won a trophy yet is the biggest obstacle to him getting a big job. I personally think this is a bit of a false argument, considering how far he has taken Spurs since he’s taken charge. In a perfect world, he would definitely be my first choice to succeed Mourinho.

But would he want to leave Spurs? United is definitely a bigger club, but Pocchetino is developing something impressive in London. With a move to a new stadium approaching and a young and hungry squad, the Argentinian might want to see his project through to the end.

The Don – Carlo Ancelotti

Juventus, Milan, Chelsea (boo!), PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich. Two European Cups as a player. Three Champions Leagues as a manager. Carlo Ancelotti is by far the most decorated manager on this list and certainly has the best perplexed facial expression.

As the list above illustrates, big Carlo can handle managing the super clubs. You don’t manage all those teams if you don’t have a little something about you. Plus, he’s won a lot while he’s been at those clubs and plays an attractive, attacking style of football.

However, his record of winning the league isn’t great, only managing it once each at Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Bayern (that’s still four league titles though!). The last two teams you almost win the league by default. At Bayern he came in for a lot of criticism after several players accused him of being too relaxed on the training pitch. His tactical instructions can also be fairly brief, equating to ‘go out and play.’

I actually think that sort of instruction would be really helpful for United’s young, attacking squad. Although the defence would need more work, I’m sure Paul Clement would work on that. If Mourinho were to leave tomorrow, I have no doubt that this is the appointment Ed Woodward would make. However, by the time Mourinho leaves the club, Carlo will probably be Italy manager.

The Ideologue – Thomas Tuchel

‘Tactics’ Thomas, as his mates definitely call him. Rising to prominence as Mainz manager, in 2014 he decided to take a sabbatical, as that’s what all the hip and cool managers do nowadays. Upon his return, he took over from Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and resurrected the broken side back into title challengers.

Tuchel is a very meticulous, ‘academic’ manger. His training sessions are mentally very challenging, forcing his players to adapt to any situation that may be thrown at them. His teams play a style of football similar to Guardiola’s teams, focused on possession and exploiting space. Of course, that style has taken the league by storm this season and could definitely work with the current United squad.

His first season at Dortmund was excellent, but during his second season the wheels fell off. This was in part due to the performances on the field, but the main problem was the falling out between Tuchel and the board after the bomb attack on the team coach. The fixture against Monaco was rearranged for the following day, seemingly without consulting the team. This left Tuchel furious and was the beginning of the end of his time at Dortmund.

I would generally be in favour of Tuchel’s style of play and his training methods. That kind of education would really help our young squad and the football would be far more entertaining than the current stuff we see. However, I feel his incendiary fallout with his previous employers would make United’s board think twice before hiring him. He’s off to Chelsea/Arsenal/Munich anyway, so this last paragraph was pointless. Still, I made you think.

The Tactician – Max Allegri

It’s been a fairly steady rise to the top of Italian coaching for Allegri. He had a good start, with moderate success at Sassuolo and Cagliari, before winning the league with an ageing Milan side in 2011. But at Juventus is where he’s gone to the next level, taking an already strong team to new heights. He’s won three league and cup doubles on the bounce as well as taking them to two Champions League finals.

Allegri is very tactically versatile. Rather than stick rigidly to a formation, he is happy to adapt to the opponent. His teams can keep the ball or play on the counter. He’s also shown that he can rebuild a team over a very short period of time. In 2015, he lost Tevez, Vidal, Pirlo and Ogbonna in one window. Three of them had been key players, the other I put in for comic effect. They were replaced with Dybala, Khedira and Lemina, along with a whole other host of players from outside and within. The team was barely affected, going on to win another league title.

However, Allegri has only ever managed within Italy. His most successful seasons have been at Juventus, who can almost win the league without trying. Whether he would be able to succeed in a league where there are multiple challengers remains to be seen.

Personally, I think this would be a canny appointment. Allegri’s teams play a great style of football, he’s shown he can work the transfer market and can improve the squad he’s given. He might even pip Pochettino as my top choice.

And he looks damn good in a suit

The Legend – Eric Cantona

Okay, hear me out.

This would be an absolute disaster. Hiring someone with no previous experience of managing teams on grass is a risk. Hiring an actor as a football manager is a risk. How many managers have had an eight-month ban as a player at the club they’re about to manage?

I can’t imagine Cantona putting cones out, planning a training session or coming up with tactics. What I can imagine, is him strutting around the training pitch, philosophising about the world and how we fit in it. Maybe he’ll do some doodles under a tree?

‘Smell the flowers, Eric, we’ll just be over here doing set piece routines.’

But as a fan, it would be so much fun. Total mayhem, but fun. The press conferences, the outfits, the madcap tactics. I have no doubt we would finish 7th or worse, but we would have a goal difference of about +3, 120 GF and 117 GA.

Basically, I would do anything for the King to come back, even if it meant total disaster.

The Wildcard – Tedesco/Nagelsmann/Sarri/Luis Enrique/Jardim etc

If the board were really brave, they would go for this option. There are several up and coming managers across Europe with radical ideas about how to play football. Maurizio Sarri could be on the brink of a Scudetto with Napoli, playing incredible attacking football. Julian Nagelsmann is playing an almost experimental style of football with the unfashionable Hoffenheim in Germany. Luis Enrique won the Champions League with Barcelona, while Leonardo Jardim entertained the world with a young Monaco side, taking them to the Ligue 1 title and the semi-finals of the Champions League.

There are so many more who are trying different, wonderful things, whilst also winning things on the way. It would be a big risk, as United is a different kettle of fish to the teams these managers are in charge of. But hiring a radical young manager with an entertaining style of play would be a big statement to make. It would get the fans on-side, it might even improve the atmosphere and hey, we might win the league again?

I would be absolutely flabbergasted if the board hired any of these managers. I really cannot stress how gasted my flabbers would be. But a man can dream. Maybe they’ll surprise me?

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So there you have it. There’s actually a lot of options out there if Mourinho were to leave. Hopefully, that’s sooner rather than later. Then maybe the board will hire one of the people named above? Think of the quality of football we’ll see! Remember when United used to be good? Well, it’ll almost be like that!

Or, you know, they’ll stick with Jose and we’ll be bored out of our minds for the next two years.

About the Author

Bob Priestley
Manchester United fan and writer of 'entertaining articles' or 'a collection of words' depending on who you listen to