Pochettino, Nagelsmann, Allegri? Who could replace Solskjaer at Man Utd?
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the master of doing just enough not to get sacked, but after an early Champions League exit, he may find that he has finally sailed too close to the wind.
The Norwegian, who took charge at Old Trafford initially on an interim basis in December 2018 to pick up the pieces from Jose Mourinho, led the club to a third placed finish last term and currently has them sixth in the standings.
However, key issues such as the club’s defensive weakness has not been addressed, while Solskjaer’s tactics continue to be questionable at times.
The Leipzig loss is unlikely to be Solskjaer’s undoing, but by Manchester United board will be considering alternatives as the manager approaches his three-year anniversary in charge.
Who are the options that they will be looking at?
Next Manchester United manager: The candidates
Out of work for more than a year now, Pochettino has indicated that he is ready and willing to come back into football. It will take a big job, however, for him to return, and Manchester United falls into just that category.
United’s strong finish to the 2019/20 campaign probably saved Solskjaer’s job as the Argentine was hovering even at that time. The spectre of Pochettino still looms large over him as many fans’ favourites to replace him.
The former Tottenham boss plays an attractive brand of football in the Manchester United tradition.
Despite a potential scramble for his services, his pedigree is still up for question. Although he led Spurs to the Champions League final, he never won anything with the club. Additionally, he has never managed a side of the stature of United before.
Another out of work coach, former Juventus boss Max Allegri knows what it is like to be in charge of a club where winning is taken for granted.
The Italian has said that he is actively looking for work in the Premier League. He has even gone so far to admit that he is taking English lessons. It was a clear come-and-get-me plea to the top clubs in the country – including Manchester United.
Allegri won the Scudetto in each of his six years at Juve and led the club to two Champions League finals. His style, though, is more pragmatic than that of Pochettino, which will count against him, even if his more cerebral game may be something the Old Trafford club needs a dose of in order to get back to their previous heights.
When the Southampton boss made a slow start to life in England, the knives were quickly out for him. Hasenhuttl’s side won only eight of his first 27 games in charge. It was not until the middle point of last term that the former RB Leipzig boss started to turn things around.
Saints ultimately finished the season in 11th, having sunk as low as 19th in November. They have since enjoyed a strong start to the 2020/21 campaign and are challenging for a top-four spot at present.
This fine run has been enough to see Hasenhuttl brought into the conversation. He must still be regarded as an outsider to become Manchester United’s next manager.
Aged only 33, Nagelsmann is considered to be one of the brightest young coaches around. Certainly, the former Hoffenheim boss schooled Solskjaer as his Leipzig side knocked United out of the Champions League with a 3-2 home win that should really have been by a greater margin.
He plays a typically dynamic and exciting brand of football, and while he has been guilty of tactical errors in the past – notably against PSG in the Champions League semi-final – he has invariably shown a capacity to learn from these mistakes.
While Nagelsmann has indicated that he is at Leipzig for the long run, the offer of a switch to United may prove tempting.
Reports in Germany suggest that Manchester United are monitoring current PSG boss Thomas Tuchel and see him as a possible replacement for Solskjaer.
It is almost certain that Tuchel will leave PSG in the summer due to a long-running dispute with sporting director Leonardo and an expiring contract.
He has not been without his critics in France, where there is a feeling that he relies too heavily on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. And nevertheless, he led PSG to last season’s Champions League final with neither superstar coming close to their best.
It is logical that he is an option being considered, but it would be surprising if he were high up United’s list. In any case, he only becomes realistic if Solskjaer was to last until the end of the season.
Currently in charge of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane could soon find himself out of work if the club’s present struggles continue. They are flirting with a Champions League exit and are fourth in La Liga, six points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with a game extra played.
There are few clubs that could attract a coach of the gravitas of Zidane, but Manchester United are likely to be one.
Counting against the Red Devils, however, is the likelihood that Zidane would want time away from the game if his adventure with Madrid was to end prematurely. The three-time Champions League winning manager quit in 2018 to take some time away from the game, and if his tie with Los Blancos was to be severed again, the same thing is likely to happen.