Manchester United are managerless. They recently won without one. But they need one.
Who Is Coming?
Antonio Conte? Snapped up by Tottenham.
Mauricio Pochettino? Could be…
A Denuded Club
Managers come, managers go. Not at United they don’t. Well, they didn’t. But they have. The feeling is that since Alex Ferguson retired there’s been a revolving door. They’ve tried big names. Authoritarians. Former players. None of this has worked. Results haven’t been good.
The Paisley and Dalglish Factors
Liverpool went through this. They has excellent success in the ’70s with the boot room coaching model, Shankly through to Paisley, to Joe Fagen (far more successful than people think), and then an established player, Kenny Dalglish. When that run ended, Liverpool struggled. They turned to an ex-player who had managerial experience elsewhere.
Graham Souness had his own thoughts and very soon there was Graham Souness’ Liverpool, a team who didn’t look or play as fans remembered and wanted, without the success they were accustomed to. This is what Manchester United have now (or as Gary Neville would have it, Mancher United). Alex Ferguson brought extraordinary success to a sleeping giant. But he retired. He supposedly hand-picked his successor, David Moyes and we saw how that went.
When Shankly retired, eventually Liverpool had to tell him to stop turning up at the training ground. There was a new manager now. There’s a sense that Ferguson still influences United management. That may not be the case, but if football supporters feel it, imagine how a United manager will feel.
They Have Lost Their Touch
That much was clear around the derby loss and newspaper speculation that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be gone and Antonio Conte installed. That didn’t happen. Ole was reprieved. Some people didn’t seem to know why things weren’t going well and a few weeks’ grace wasn’t going to change that.
In the meantime, they lost the chance to woo Conte and he went to Tottenham. That might have not been the case, he might have been nowhere near Old Trafford, but that was the perception and that’s important.
It’s not sure-footed and has made United look like they are also-rans.
Who Wants To Come?
Well, despite his protestations, Pochettino looks favorite. And that may be because he’s not settled at PSG. It surely can’t be aspirational.
Who would think that United are a bigger club than PSG? Look at the players. Someone said Ole spent 300 million on players. This is the Mirror headline; ‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took his transfer outlay to £441million in the summer window’. And what does he have from that? Not really any player he could rely on to put a solid shift in, game after game.
Why Is The United Manager’s Job A Poisoned Chalice?
Expectation. When you’ve won stuff, you want stuff. There’s an expectation and not just among fans. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s what keeps clubs going. They’ve spent big and they’re getting antsy. No one talks about a building season or two with Manchester United, do they?
The Ones Who Have Gone Before
We’ve had international managers with big names, Mourihno, Van Gaal. We’ve had managers with less of a CV, Moyes, Ole, none of them have been able to make a difference. Well, not what they’re expected to anyway.
And that’s a point.
What Is Expected?
The Glory Days. The Premiership. European trophies. Domestic trophies. And no, that doesn’t mean settling for the Carabao Cup or Europa League. As I said, no one mentions building seasons for Manchester United. And yet that would be helpful. It isn’t capitulation. It isn’t acceptance. It’s waiting. Being patient. Putting everything on a firm footing. Spending 400 million? Going for big-name managers? Sticking plasters.
That’s why Ole’s appointment was such a possible success. He was an ex-player in some of those Glory Days. He wasn’t a huge management name. He had soft communication skills. And he came at it from underneath. Didn’t stoke the fires of expectation. Didn’t make big pronouncements. Let’s be clear, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has undertaken the manager’s job with respect and understanding. It ain’t really his fault. And he had success at first.
The Dressing Room
When managers ‘lose the dressing room’ it isn’t because they can’t remember where they’ve put it. It’s because the players won’t play, it’s because the manager loses respect. United have ‘big’ players. Not tall. Although that too. But also players who have a large price tag and lots of medals. And they need to be managed. There have been reports about Pogba not playing well, the implication sometimes being that he doesn’t want to, which is harsh. But time served players like him and Ronaldo, brought back partially as a marketing exercise some say because also because he’s talismanic, people like him, who played in the Glory Days, need to be accommodated.
Is Pochettino the manager to do this? Well, this is what Eurosport had to say recently, about last night’s loss to Manchester City, Pochettino might boast one of the strongest squads in European football, and certainly the strongest attacking line, but it’s clear he is struggling to get across his ideas.’ That doesn’t bode well. And why would Pochettino want to? Are Manchester United a bigger club than PSG? Not as far as regarded players. This is something United are struggling with. And their possible manager is not a bullish leader. He has a persuasive style, he coaxes, he makes links that way, it seems. He doesn’t look like someone who will assert himself, tell the players who’s the boss, change things in a root and branch way.
As United fan Natalie Burrell told the BBC;
It’s about managing big-name players and dropping one of them when they’re not playing well enough, rather than trying to fit them all in.”
If Not Poch, Then Who?
The MEN reported; ‘The Manchester Evening News understands that United have had an approach for Pochettino knocked back, meaning it remains to be seen just how quickly they could lure him to Old Trafford.’ So they may be back at square 1. And this is no doubt why they’re looking to appoint an interim manager. Who else is there? Did they not approach West Ham and ask whether David Moyes is available? He has the experience in a cauldron now, having managed Real Sociedad, he’s asserting his managerial style at the Hammers and he’s a steely presence in the dressing room. Perhaps they did. United are not the draw they once were.
And always remember, Sam Allardyce is available.