The Race to Replace Sir Alex
Neither a flying pizza nor a kick in the shin could fell him, but Sir Alex Ferguson is 66-years-old. He will retire at some point. Manchester United manager for 22 years, Ferguson’s teams have won 10 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League Finals. His run must, eventually, end, possibly after serving as Great Britain manager during the 2012 Olympics. The dynasty built in his vision will pass to another steward, who will fail to duplicate it while accounting for the club’s massive debt. Here are the likely candidates for the honor.
Jose Mourinho: One of the most famous managers in the world, Mourinho won a Champions League with Porto and two league titles with Chelsea. Currently manager at Inter Milan, Jose said he would return to the Premier League, at the end of his contract. If he doesn’t return to Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City seem the only conceivable options (assuming he’s not planning charity work at Tottenham or Newcastle.) Calling former charge Didier Drogba a diver and trimming his hair in solidarity with Wayne Rooney, Jose may be already cozying up to his new fan base. He’s had a mixed-time thus far at Inter, but his “special” reputation in England may captivate a Glazer ownership, more interested in short-term success.
Mark Hughes: Sparky played for 13 years at Manchester United, seven under Sir Alex. He earned plaudits as Wales manager, nearly qualifying his country for Euro 2008. Hughes was masterful at Blackburn, bringing the low-budget side to a top-six finish in the Premier League and UEFA Cup success. He left Blackburn for a bigger club Manchester City this season, though he has been foiled by a buyout and pricey, cold-adverse Brazilians, which could credibly see him fired in the next few weeks. What looked plausible one year ago now looks extremely remote.
Roy Keane: A longtime Manchester United captain, Keane played 13 seasons for Manchester United, winning seven of Ferguson’s Premier League titles. He displayed his managerial magic, turning around a disastrous Sunderland season in the Championship to promote them to the Premier League. He then, by the force of his well, staved off relegation in his first season. However, the shine has come off a bit, as Sunderland, despite an influx of talent, sit near the bottom of the table after three straight losses. Has Roy Keane pushed the limits of Sunderland or of his own ability?
Laurent Blanc: A French legend and object of Ferguson admiration, Blanc played his final two professional seasons for United, helping the squad that won the 2002-3 Premier League title. Last season, in his first year as a manager, Blanc led Bordeaux to a second-place finish in Ligue Un and European qualification. This year, Bordeaux sit third in the league, with potential to make the Champions League knockout stages. Yoann Gourcouff has resurrected his career under Blanc’s watch. Touted for France manager, he will surely be put up for bigger jobs in the future, one of them may be United.
The Carrington Cabal: United could stay in house, literally, for their next managerial appointment. Teammates Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took their coaching badges together. The retired Solskjaer has worked for United as a striker’s coach and currently manages United’s reserve team. Neville has been Manchester United Captain. Ryan Giggs has hung around a really long time. All three should have a fair understanding of how to run the place by now.