The worst kept secret in football was finally revealed on Tuesday morning when Manchester United broke the mold and sacked a manager for the first time in almost three decades.
David Moyes’ disastrous spell in charge at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ soon turned into a theatre of nightmares for the so-called ‘chosen one’ and despite the fact last seasons Premier League champions will finish with their lowest ever points tally and no European football to light up Old Trafford next season, fans of the red army can now look forward to the summer ahead with a host of the worlds very best managers being lined up as possible candidates for one of world footballs biggest gigs (forgive the pun).
The new leader of this United team will be selected carefully off the back of a very strict criteria with success and experience at the elite level of European and world football a must.
So who are the favorites for the hottest seat in football management?
Louis van Gaal
Elite level experience? Proven track record? It doesn’t come much bigger and better than at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with the current Dutch team national manager winning two La Liga titles, the Copa Del Ray and a Spanish super cup with the Catalan club while he also claimed a league and cup double in Germany with a super cup triumph the following season.
The other aspect Manchester United’s hierarchy will examine is style of play, something David Moyes simply failed to establish during his tenure, and having won a Champions League title with the original school of football, Ajax there is no doubt Van Gaal ticks all the boxes.
The only mark that could go against the sixty-two-year-old is the manner in which his reign at Bayern came to an end with the German giants slipping down to third place in the Bundesliga and as a result his departure from the club being brought forward having already announced he would leave at the end of 2010-11 season. That ties us into our next Manchester United candidate perfectly.
Klopp was the man who ultimately cost Van Gaal his job in Germany as his Borussia Dortmund side blew away the opposition that season before going on to do the same again in 2012 and claim back to back league titles. The argument is simple, any manager who can topple the mighty Bayern Munich is a good one and Klopp has done it consistently in recent seasons although the brilliance of Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola has proved too much in the last two seasons.
Domestic success is not enough for Manchester United however, and while the charismatic German has not won a trophy on a continental stage, his Dortmund side stole the show in the Champions League last season with their fast attacking football capturing the public’s imagination.
In fact, that direct and attacking style of play has been likened to the tactics employed by the great Sir Alex Ferguson and as a result it is only natural that many football purists are calling for United to make a brave call and appoint Klopp over perhaps what are more experienced candidates.
Continuing the Bundesliga theme is Bayern Munich coach, Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard found himself in a somewhat similar situation to Moyes when he was asked to follow in the footsteps of a manager that had just completed a historic treble the previous season but with many stating it was an impossible act to follow, Guardiola has defied those odds to go on and break all kind of records, just as he did with Barcelona.
Winning the German league title in record time was never going to be enough following what had gone on the season before but with Bayern the favorites to retain their European crown and German Cup title, many are now comparing this Munich team to his ‘Barca’ side that were dubbed the greatest of all time.
Seventeen major honors in just five years of top-level management, Pep Guardiola is set to become one of if not the greatest managers in the history of the game. However, with Guardiola only finishing up his first season of what is a project of unimaginable heights at the Allianz Arena, the chances of him ending up in the Old Trafford hot-seat are almost far-fetched, as his 20/1 bookies price tag suggests.
With thirteen major honors to his name, including two Champions League triumphs with a simply mighty AC Milan side, it would be foolish to rule out the Italian who, perhaps crucially, is the only one of the candidates to have experienced success in English football with a league and cup double with Chelsea in 2009.
Despite a disappointing league season so far with Real Madrid, Ancelotti has just printed a Copa Del Rey success onto his C.V. as of last week, thanks to a Gareth Bale masterclass in the final against arch rivals Barcelona. Ancelotti’s Madrid are also still in the mix to claim his third Champions League title but on the downside for Manchester United followers, should that happen you would expect ‘Los Blancos’ to stick with their man despite looking set to finish behind their two greatest rivals in La Liga.
Attacking football is what the Stretford End crave and having set a Premier League record of 103 goals scored during that successful campaign of 2010 with Chelsea, some United fans and perhaps even the Glazers could be forgiven if they were hoping for results to go against Ancelotti for the rest of the season as reports in Spain suggest Madrid may be losing patience with yet another manager. Should that prove to be the case, that would mean no compensation for the American owners to pay out, a big brownie point for Ancelotti should it happen.
It’s only natural after a season like the one Atletico are currently enjoying that Diego Simeone was going to be linked to clubs around the globe with bigger spending power than his current employers, but unlike the rest of the candidates mentioned in this article his name is only on the minority of fans lips for the role.
With two Argentine Primera División titles to his name with two different clubs and in the impressive space of time of just two years, Simeone has shown his uncanny ability to come in and galvanise a club almost instantly with his performance in taking Atletico Madrid from relegation strugglers to champions elect in the space of just three years a prime example.
Atleti’s Europa League triumph came just months after his appointment and that was followed up last season by thrashing Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup final before going onto claim a third trophy in three seasons with the Copa Del Rey success over arch rivals, Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Simeone’s success at Atletico has largely been attributed to his hard-working and physical style of play and aggressive mentality. Out of the three sides chasing the title in Spain right now, most football fans would agree that in terms of attractive football, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the better teams to watch with Atletico setting up to counter attack in games against the big sides and with great effect to their credit.
However, Manchester United are a team that have always played on the front foot and while Simeone showed in his native Argentina that his tactics can work at different clubs, it is doubtful as to how Manchester United’s players would take to Simeone’s personality, while he would not hold the legends status that he currently enjoys at Athletico meaning it may take him longer to settle and earn the players trust and approval. An unknown quantity and probably the biggest gamble United could possible take.
Time to throw in a curve ball of sorts with Everton boss, Roberto Martinez a name on the lips of football lovers all over the globe right now. Despite relegation from the Premier League last season, the Spaniards side preformed way above their level and were ultimately rewarded when they put the sword to mega-rich Manchester City to astonishingly claim the FA Cup title. That amazing achievement saw Martinez step into the Goodison Park dugout at the start of the season, following David Moyes departure after eleven years at the club, and despite the step up Martinez has stuck to his footballing beliefs and brought total football to Merseyside.
After some disastrous signings under David Moyes, candidates performances in the transfer market will be one of the criteria examined by the wise men at Old Trafford and that very well could play into Martinez’s favor. Youth development is part of the DNA of Manchester United at that may well also be looked at when it comes to appointing a successor to Moyes and yet again that is an area that may go in Martinez’s favor with the performances of Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley in particular highlighting Martinez’s ability to let young footballers express themselves on the pitch.
In conclusion, the safe option for Manchester United may be the way to go after taking a gamble on a manager who had no track record when it came to major honors and as a result it is easy to see why Louis Van Gaal is the bookmakers’ favorite. However, with Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all looking set to be stronger than ever next season you would have to worry about the Dutch man’s final season in charge of Bayern when the opposition were simply too strong for him.
Van Gaal’s close relationship with Robin Van Persie may help seal the deal plus the aforementioned fact that no compensation will be required to secure his services. Pep Guardiola is the perfect match for Manchester United but it might be a while longer before he becomes available as the development of Bayern Munich into all time history makers continues. The dark-horse in this race is certainly Roberto Martinez and while he has proven the step up to a bigger club with greater aims and expectations will not faze him, Manchester United is a whole new world and this job might just have come too early for him. Another unknown quantity of sorts would be Diego Simeone due to his aggressive and physical approach, something not associated with Manchester United Football Club and for that reason probably one of the first names you can rule out of the race.
There is no doubt in terms of proven success Carlo Ancelotti is the stand out candidate, importantly he is the only candidate with success in England on his C.V, and it would be extremely foolish to rule out the Italian. Critics will point towards the fact that his Madrid side find themselves behind a poor Barcelona team and a complete underdog in city rivals Atletico, but with the possibility that Carlo Ancelotti maybe a free agent come the summer should he fail to land ‘La Décima’ for ‘Los Blancos’ it is another point in his favour.