Reports last month suggested the Old Trafford hierarchy has been evaluating several replacements, among them Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and Laurent Blanc at Paris Saint-Germain. Louis Van Gaal is a man with the no-nonsense approach United evidently desire, and an outside bet is Diego Simeone at Atletico.
Those are the strong candidates — always assuming Pep Guardiola doesn’t want to jump ship after his public tiff with Franz Beckenbauer.
United obviously can exert an unique pull — but as a club they have one disadvantage in that they have never had a foreigner in charge.
If they opt for a foreigner, they also have to consider what they want the new man to do. Do they want someone who can be a general manager as well as football manager, which is their traditional approach, or do they want a head coach who focuses exclusively on the football side, which is what the great majority of European managers are used to?
Jurgen Klopp would be on anyone’s list as a head coach, He has built a sparkling side at Borussia Dortmund. Even in adversity this seasons, with a series of injuries to key players, they have continued to play good football. He has the attacking philosophy which Old Trafford craves and also an intensely competitive streak, as his team showed the other day when they went to Munich and thumped the newly-crowned champions 3-0.
Both Shinji Kagawa, who made his names with Dortmund, and Juan Mata are the type of player who Klopp likes and gets the best out of. United have also been strongly linked with Dortmund’s brilliant young winger Marco Reus who has emerged as one of Germany’s top players.
Klopp’s other significant advantages are that he’s a great communicator — he’s been a successful pundit for German television — and that he speaks good English in interviews. No problems with press conferences or post-match banter. He would be a breath of fresh air.
Would Klopp come? He’s very happy at Dortmund and committed to the club and its fans. Also, he’s benefited greatly from having Michael Zorc at his side, a veteran director of sport who has been responsible for the club’s flow of excellent and mostly low-cost recruits.
Laurent Blanc, like Klopp, speaks good English and has the great merits of being a former United player, who likes the club and the Premier League. He won the French title with Bordeaux, who were outsiders, and also demonstrated some real steel when he was appointed to take over the French national side after the disastrous regime of Raymond Domenech and the debacle of the 2010 World Cup.
With PSG Blanc has shown he can handle the pressures of managing big players at a club with infinite ambitions. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played some of his best football ever with Blanc in charge — better than with Guardiola and possibly than with Mourinho. Blanc has pulled together an expensive group of players and instilled a good team spirit.
Blanc also has the advantage of being probably available. There are signs PSG may want to appoint a new man because they feel he is too cautious. That may give the United board pause for thought. Blanc is a safe pair of hands who knows how to win trophies — unlike Moyes — but does he have the killer instinct when it comes to competing at the top level?
The killer instinct is what Van Gaal has in bucketloads. He’s a Champions League winner, and a title winner with big clubs such as Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern. He also won the Dutch title in inspirational manner with a group of outsiders at AZ.
Tactically, Van Gaal is also at the top of his profession — Mourinho regards him as a mentor as well as a friend. The question is whether United want a man with a prickly reputation that caused him to fall out with his bosses at both Barcelona and Munich and led to constant feuding with sections of the Dutch media.