Talking about Manchester United’s managerial problems feels more out of place than seeing Jurgen Klopp in a meditation centre given the years of stability Sir Alex Ferguson gave the Red Devils but now, more than ever since Louis van Gaal has been in charge, it’s a big talking point.
United had some rough times since the departure of Ferguson and now they’re quickly becoming famous for being more boring than Chelsea when they park the bus. Assuming Van Gaal makes it to next summer, they’re are going to have a serious dilemma.
Louis van Gaal is a difficult one. It’s no secret that he’s unpopular amongst the Manchester United fans and ex players. Chants of ‘Attack! Attack! Attack!’ have become a regular thing at Old Trafford and while I think the United faithful are missing a trick by not singing songs from American metalcore band Attack! Attack!, it’s clear that there is unrest around Van Gaal’s style of play. His job could well be in danger if more stylish football fails to materialise.
However, the difficulty comes when you realise that United sit 4th in the Premier League, and just three points off the top spot which isn’t half bad. It’s really not inconceivable that Van Gaal could lead United to the league title this season and, perhaps counter-intuitively, I think that would be a worse long-term result than if they didn’t win the league.
The reasoning behind this is that it would be hard to force Van Gaal out before his contract ends if he won the league and the unrest around his style of play would likely continue. This would cause a real headache for United in terms of their fan base (at home and abroad) and for signing players in the various transfer windows between now and Van Gaal’s departure, given all the negativity they will have heard.
The other reason why keeping Van Gaal could be detrimental is the looming presence of the next man to discuss.
Pep Guardiola, essentially the Messi of management, is potentially the biggest dilemma that presents Manchester United in the coming year. The ideal scenario for United is if Bayern Munich don’t win this season’s Champions League.
Given how much of a perfectionist Guardiola is, I’m not sure whether he would leave Bayern after three years without a Champions League trophy and if he were to extend his contract by a year then that would coincide perfectly with the end of Van Gaal’s United contract.
The worry is if Guardiola does lead Bayern to a Champions League win then it seems highly likely that he will be up for grabs next summer and Manchester United would of course want him at Old Trafford. If they are still going back and forth with Van Gaal and on the fence about the Dutchman then they risk losing out on Guardiola.
‘Pep’ has expressed his interest regarding Premier League management and if he were to join Manchester City and experience the success that he’s used to then this would be a disastrous situation for Manchester United. I’m fairly sure every United fan would take Guardiola over Van Gaal right now but it’s clear that a lot of things need to go their way for that to happen.
Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are also names that have to be thrown into the ring and there is currently a big trend of cultivating ex-players to end up in management roles.
Giggs certainly has had the backing of Sir Alex Ferguson and former players to take over at Manchester United, and he has received a lot of coaching experience under David Moyes and now Louis van Gaal. He is one of the faces of the golden age of football at Old Trafford and the familiarity is definitely appealing.
However, fans have criticised him for being part of the new ‘boring’ Manchester United and I wonder whether he needs experience elsewhere as a manager in order to prepare himself for what is essentially a massive challenge. This is exactly what Gary Neville has decided to do.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or so, you’ll be aware that Neville has, bizarrely, become Valencia manager alongside his brother Phil and left his TV and columnist responsibilities to pursue this venture. Whether he will be successful remains to be seen but if he is then he has so many options available to him.
Obviously staying at Valencia next summer is a possibility and the England job is certainly a conceivable option. However, the Manchester United job would also surely be an appealing prospect for a United legend and success at Valencia could certainly open the door.
The future looks complicated for United and it will be interesting to see if Van Gaal can bring success, but if he can’t, who will?