Manchester United have sacked manager Jose Mourinho after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday proved to be the last straw.
Mourinho, in his third season at Old Trafford, leaves the club sixth in the Premier League, a massive 19 points behind rivals and leaders Liverpool. In a turbulent campaign, the Portuguese boss has made his unhappiness with the club’s transfer business clear, as well as clashing with the media.
No United manager since Alex Ferguson has brought stability and sustained success to Old Trafford, but who could be next in line to take the throne? Here, we take a look at some of the possible contenders…
Pochettino has long been talked of as a possible United manager, even dating back to Louis van Gaal’s appointment. But the Argentine signed a new five-year contract in May and it’s doubtful that he would want to leave Tottenham in the middle of the season, making a pursuit at the end of the campaign more likely. He boosted his case in August, when Spurs – who hadn’t even scored on their last four visits to Old Trafford – earned a convincing 3-0 triumph that further enhanced Pochettino’s reputation.
He clearly enjoys building a long-term project, despite his obvious frustration with the lack of activity in the transfer window at Spurs. Tottenham will soon move into the rebuilt White Hart Lane and United will hope they haven’t missed their chance to appoint Pochettino, with Spurs now aiming to leapfrog their rivals in the Premier League pecking order.
The football world was shocked when Zidane decided to walk away from Real Madrid after leading the club to a third consecutive Champions League crown in May. Zidane has since kept a low profile and it’s not yet clear where he sees his future (although reports would suggest he’s holding out for Juventus when the time comes).
Few teams can compete with the prestige of managing the Spanish capital club, but United are up there – the two clubs are probably the biggest in the world. By June, Zidane will have had a full year to recharge his batteries and could be a good fit. That said, for all of the Frenchman’s European success, Madrid finished 17 points behind Barcelona in the La Liga table last term.
A big collection of silverware, tactical ingenuity and, perhaps most importantly, availability – Conte ticks a lot of boxes. A complication would be that he’s currently embroiled in a legal battle with Chelsea, while the Italian appeared to lose control of the dressing room at Stamford Bridge last season.
Although Conte is a proven winner, with four league titles on his record at the age of 49, the former Juventus and Italy boss can be as combustible as Mourinho and that could put off the Old Trafford board.
Former Paris Saint-Germain head coach Blanc – a good friend of. Alex Ferguson – has been biding his time before returning to management, with over two years out of the game since leaving the Ligue 1 giants. The Frenchman won 11 domestic trophies in his three years in charge at PSG, but was sacked after a quarter-final Champions League exit to Manchester City in his final term.
The Parisians then failed to progress any further in the competition under his successor Unai Emery, backing up Blanc’s impressive record at the club. He was previously linked with Bordeaux, but reports have suggested he has rejected a Ligue 1 return. Perhaps crucially, the 53-year-old knows Old Trafford well, having spent the last couple of years of his playing career at United.
Jardim was sacked as Monaco head coach in October after a terrible start to 2018/19 in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, but that shouldn’t detract from the 44-year-old’s sparkling legacy at Stade Louis II over his four-year tenure.
Backed by some high-profile transfer recruits, Jardim won Ligue 1 2016/17 – Monaco’s first league title in 17 years – toppling the dominant PSG. Not only that, he also led them to the Champions League semi-finals while playing an attractive style of football… the type of which United’s fans crave.
It’s unlikely that Michael Carrick will be given the job full-time, having only joined Mourinho’s coaching staff this season and unlikely even to be given the job until the end of the campaign.
Instead, Howe is more likely to have impressed the higher-ups at Old Trafford after improving Bournemouth year on year and steering them towards a Europa League spot in 2018/19. It’s highly unlikely that he’d be catapulted into a top job like United straight from the south coast – the Catch-22 situation being that he doesn’t have the higher-level managerial experience – but if any English manager has a shot, it’s him.
Inexperience was also the argument used against Giggs when he wasn’t considered for the main job before Mourinho’s arrival.
He’s now with Wales in his first full-time job as a manager after two-and-a-half years away from the club he’d previously served without a gap since he was a teenager, and the club icon – still young in coaching terms at 45 – may be an option this time after learning from his four games in temporary charge back in 2014.
It may be extremely unlikely, but even United fans would accept it would make for an intriguing spectacle. Wenger is yet to take a job since his 22-year reign at Arsenal came to an end.