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In The Mixer: Experts pick the next Man United manager
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
November 23, 2021
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Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

In The Mixer is FST’s weekly column where we catch up with seven experts in football betting and get their opinion on the hot topic of the week.

Manchester United fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday following a heavy defeat at the hands of Watford. We’ve already looked at how that decision impacts their place in the race for the top four, but who should replace him at Old Trafford?

This week’s In The Mixer aims to answer that question, as our experts put forward the best options for United in the short and long term.

United low on options

Tom McGarry

Sports journalist at ICS

Manchester United may have acted too late in parting ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as they have missed out on landing Antonio Conte, who surely would have been their primary target.

There appears no obvious replacement in the short term for the Norwegian, with Brendan Rodgers currently struggling to get a tune out of Leicester, while Zinedine Zidane may not be tempted by a move to Old Trafford.

United’s tendency to appoint a manager with connections to the club could see them turn to Michael Carrick, who has been placed in temporary charge, or perhaps even technical director Darren Fletcher, although given the struggles of Solskjaer, that would surely prove a mistake.

Red Devils to go Dutch

Joe Casey

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Manchester United’s failure to get rid of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when other managers were available has led them to a scenario where it seems unlikely that anyone will jump ship to join the Red Devils midway through the season.

With that in mind, if they wait until the end of the campaign a manager such as Erik Ten Hag makes sense. He has worked wonders with an Ajax side with a wage budget smaller than Burnley’s, reaching a Champions League semi-final and plays an exciting, attacking brand of football.

If they don’t end up securing the Dutchman, I would give Roberto Mancini a call. He may be tempted back into club football having won a major trophy with Italy. Mancini managed at the top level in the Premier League with their rivals Man City and has shown he can turn around a sinking ship with the Italian national team. 

Liam Flin

Sports journalist at Racing Post

If Manchester United wait until the end of the current season to appoint their next permanent manager, which it seems they will, then they should look no further than Erik ten Hag.

Dutchman ten Hag is fiercely loyal to his Ajax team and is unlikely to leave mid-season but could be tempted next summer and could represent a great appointment.

United’s biggest issue has been the lack of a clear-cut system under Solskjaer but ten Hag’s Ajax side are well-drilled and as well as winning two Eredivisie titles during his time as manager, he also led the club to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.

Aaron Ashley

Sports journalist at Racing Post

Antonio Conte may have wished he waited a little longer before taking the Tottenham job as he would have been the perfect fit for Manchester United.

But stubbornness at the top saw the Red Devils miss out on the best available candidate again, just as they did with Mauricio Pochettino, and now it is difficult to pinpoint the right replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United need an experienced leader with a proven past of working with world-class personnel such as Cristiano Ronaldo and it doesn’t look like being a quick fix, either.

Zinedine Zidane may be that man but If they can prize Erik ten Hag away from Ajax, then it could be worth taking a chance on the impressive Dutchman.

Ten Hag has been a great success at Ajax, guiding them to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019. They have won all four group games in this year’s competition, too, and they are already well on their way to a third Eredivisie title under his care.

Rob Eddy

Sports journalist at ICS

It will not be an easy puzzle to solve for Manchester United, particularly as they appeared to at least be heading in the right direction last season by finishing second, only to descend into an utter shambles so quickly this term.

Zidane Zidane may have been linked but it seems he is not interested, while Mauricio Pochettino – who Zidane could replace at PSG – does at least have positive experiences of the Premier League, despite his sacking at Spurs.

However, Erik ten Hag should certainly be considered given his relative success with Ajax, while his current side boasts both the best offensive and defensive record in the Eredivisie this term – and United need help and direction all over the pitch.

Another option for Southgate

Ian Wilkerson

Sports journalist at Racing Post

A change of manager is only going to scratch the surface at Old Trafford if the board do not take a long-term approach and look at revolutionising the culture at the club.

To this end, I’m amazed that England boss Gareth Southgate is such a big price because he has demonstrated he is capable of doing just that.

The atmosphere in the England camp appears to have changed beyond measure and that’s down to one man and the quality of his man-management. Several of the current United squad have been influenced by his ways of working and he would have as good a chance as any of bringing them together.

The main problem, though, is that it is an environment where the individual has become more important than the team, which might be great for commercial sales but doesn’t bring success in the Premier League.

If whoever does take over is not given the licence and the time to address this fundamental flaw, then it’s not going to matter who is picking the team. 

Time for a left-field move?

Aaron Rogan

Sports journalist at FST

The Solskjaer mess shows how dangerous hiring an interim boss can be. You won’t get a big name, but anyone to close to the club or a little too successful and you could be stuck with them. United seem determined to land someone like Pochettino in the summer, but the next appointment could get in the way.

However, without a good appointment this season could easily drift by. United gambled by signing Cristiano Ronaldo and their time with him at the top is limited. Rather than waiting around, United should look to start their rebuild now. Someone like Luis Enrique would be great.

He has top-level experience, has rebuilt the Spanish national side and has Ronaldo’s stamp of approval reportedly. It would involve a big Old Trafford overhaul, but the squad they’ve built doesn’t look cohesive and simply hasn’t worked. Putting off fixing that until next season looks like another mistake. 

Gareth Freeman

Sports journalist at FST

It doesn’t look as if Manchester United are in a huge rush to bring in a new permanent manager.  The paper talk suggests Zinedine Zidane is the frontrunner but I’m not sure if that’s because he’s the best fit or just the best available right now.

Bringing in Zidane on an initial deal until the end of the season may be best for all parties, and that would allow them to keep their options open.  The obvious long-term choice would be Mauricio Pochettino but prising him away from PSG will be a big ask.

As a completely leftfield, and admittedly highly unlikely, selection I think Nice boss Christophe Galtier isn’t a bad shout for United – or indeed any big club in Europe. Galtier ended a trophy-drought stretching over 30 years during his time at Saint-Etienne, then denied PSG the title while at Lille and has overseen a quick improvement at Nice – turning them from a mid-table team into genuine top three contenders since joining in the summer.

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