A quick look at the Premier League table would have anyone not aware of Manchester United’s proud history scratching their head and wondering why questions are being asked of Louis Van Gaal’s stewardship at Old Trafford. After all, Man United are within striking distance of a top four finish and a place in next season’s Champion League. However, that may not be enough for Red Devils’ fans, and it could still be very much the case of LVG out and a search for his replacement.
Manchester United are not just any old football club. The worldwide legion of followers were fed a diet of unbridled success under Sir Alex Ferguson. The supporters were left bitterly disappointed by Sir Alex’s successor, David Moyles, and former Dutch national boss Van Gaal was expected to be the godsend who would herald a return to the days of glory at Old Trafford. That has not happened, so the big question is, if and when Van Gaal does go, who will take over?
One name has constantly cropped up since his departure from Chelsea earlier in the season: Jose Mourinho. Despite leading the Blues to the Premier League title last term, the Portuguese maestro could not survive what was an awful start to the 2015/16 season at Stamford Bridge. There have been reports of meetings between United executives and Mourinho, but so far, lips on all sides are sealed.
Why is Mourinho being seen as such a strong contender? Firstly, there is the man’s track record – he has reaped trophies and glory for clubs on both sides of the English Channel and has managed at the very highest level. Secondly, the media love him. Manchester United hardly needs more publicity, but Mourinho is recognised as a master of using the press to his advantage, definitely a desirable attribute when heading up such a high profile club.
On the downside, Mourinho has proved himself to be fallible, and that was demonstrated by his sacking at Chelsea in December. Reportedly, he had lost the dressing room, something he would dare not do at Old Trafford. Also, if he does come to Manchester and the club endures a slow start next term, will the United fans be prepared to give him time to turn things round?
Other managers being tipped to replace Van Gaal include Mauricio Pochettino. Pochettino has worked wonders at Tottenham Hotspur, turning them into Premier League title challengers. However, would that be enough to turn things around at Old Trafford, and could the Argentine be tempted from a club that is more or less guaranteed Champions League football next season?
One name that is high among the list of bookies’ favourites is Van Gaal’s current assistant, Ryan Giggs. Giggs is an Old Trafford hero – a name associated with Man United’s glory days. Yet while the fans would celebrate Giggs’s elevation to the manager’s role, there are potential problems. He lacks managerial experience, and the sad truth is, he is currently part of a backroom team that has brought little pleasure to United’s ever-demanding supporters.
Perhaps the more important issue for fans is not who the manager is, but the strategy they will take to push the club back to the top of the table. Perhaps a managerial rookie such as Giggs could bring a much needed shake up and some original ideas to the table. In a recent interview with Sky News’ Dermot Murnaghan, the former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell discussed the need for clubs to seek out and promote new talent amongst younger English players. Maybe having an ex-player such as Giggs at the helm will lead the club down a more innovative route, working with grassroots players and nurturing the starts of the future.
So far, LVG remains in place, but if does go, the hot money must be on Mourinho as his replacement.