When one thinks of Manchester United, Sir Alex almost immediately comes to mind. He represents, passion, pride, intellect, desire and most of all – winning. For most United fans, the idea of the Red Devils being coached by none other than the Scot is just simply unthinkable. Since 1986, Sir Alex’s tenure with the club has been rich in great achievements featuring some of the best players ever. However, although he may seem so, Sir Alex is not immortal. While his spirit and hunger will never diminish, the 69 year old behind so many of United’s greatest moments will unfortunately have to step down at some point.
Although it will be a dark day when Fergie retires, its something Manchester United have to prepare for. Chief executive David Gill has already said that Sir Alex will help in finding his own replacement. He stated, “I will co-ordinate the process, but, clearly, I will take great store in what he [Ferguson] says and what other key people at the club say. The owners will clearly have a view. All these things will come together. It would be a collective body, not a big body, but we would get all the input to make sure we make the appropriate choice.”
Who the “appropriate choice” is to replace Sir Alex is up in the air. The media’s candidate repeatedly linked with United is none other than “The Special One” Jose Mourinho. Whether it is due to his personality or accomplishments, no one seems more destined to warm the manager’s seat in the dugout. The current Real Madrid coach has made no secret of his interest with Manchester United.
“I have big jobs left in me that is for sure – but I can’t commit to which ones,” the News of the World quoted Mourinho as saying, “If you want me to rule out ever being Manchester United manager I can’t.” After talking about the desire of big clubs for special managers, he admitted, “So I am sure when Sir Alex retires they will look at the best managers in the world and I certainly fall into that category.”
There are many factors in favor of Mourinho being the new manager of Manchester United. First of all, when it comes to the successor of Ferguson, a larger than life personality will be needed to deal with the pressure and scrutiny. While most coaches would wilt under the attention, Mourinho would embrace it. His history speaks for itself since he has won domestic and European honors with the likes of Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid. He is out to conquer the world and winning with Manchester United would do wonders for his inflated ego. Even Sir Alex is an admirer as he has developed great mutual respect with Mourinho which could one day translate into Fergie’s faith in having him as his successor.
However, there are some issues that could get in the way of Mourinho’s arrival. While he is a world-class coach when it comes to tactics, there are those who are against his defensive style. Figure heads like legend Bobby Charlton aren’t fans of Mourinho’s conservative strategies to victory. Manchester United has always been for attacking football and many see Mourinho as not being fit to maintain that tradition. Another factor is that Mourinho probably isn’t a long-term option. In the last few years, Mourinho has bounced around from one country to another in order to truly conquer Europe. He has never stayed with a team for longer then 3 years which gives the impression that he would only be a temporary option.
At the end of the day, Mourinho is certainly the most high profile option and considered by many to be the favorite to take over for Fergie. However, there are other options as well.
David Moyes, the Scottish manager of Everton, always seems to come up in discussions after Mourinho. Many have been impressed with how he has made Everton a consistent force to be reckoned with while working with limited resources. He has also been widely recognized for utilizing his youth academy which is a tradition that is adopted at Old Trafford as well. Last year, Sir Alex himself was noted as saying that he would deeply consider Moyes as his successor. However, there are things against him as a replacement like his lack of experience managing high-profile teams. He recently stated his desire to coach Celtic because he used to play for them. Then, there is also the problem of him having to coach Wayne Rooney whose time at Everton ended in a rather messy fashion to say the least. There is likely still bad blood between the two considering Moyes went as far as taking the Liverpudlian striker to court for libel. Could the two put their differences aside and work together at another club?
Other options include Martin O’Neil, the Irishman who like David Moyes, took the Premier League club Aston Villa to great heights with a limited budget. He is a great player’s coach who gets the best out of his squad and uses superb tactics to tangle with the big boys of England. However, like Moyes, is O’Neil experienced enough to take over United?
After that, there are the long shots to look at. One candidate could very well be the one man who has been able to consistently beat Sir Alex in recent years, Sep Guardiola. The Catalan currently is under contract with Barcelona until 2012. While the odds of his leaving are miniscule, strange things can always happen in football. Guardiola is certainly one of the best coaches in the world as his possession-oriented tactics has lead to his team playing beautiful football which would be cherished at Old Trafford.
There are also the likes of former United players who could take over. Legends like Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all been thought of as potential candidates. However, nothing would be as spectacular as seeing King Eric become the next manager. Cantona is certainly a fan favorite and would be welcomed to the club despite his lack of coaching experience. He has, in the past, hinted at his interest in the manager’s role if he was ever offered the position. While the odds of current lead director of the New York Cosmos are very slim, his name will always be thrown out there until someone else is chosen to take over United.
In all, nobody really knows who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson including the Scot himself. It’s a position that could either raise a manager’s career to unimaginable heights or quickly blow up in their face. The executive board is confident they will be ready to replace Sir Alex once that dark day comes. However, things at the moment will remain status quo as Manchester United will look for their 20th league title and possibly revenge against Barcelona in the Champions League. When David Gill was asked when Sir Alex would step down, he remarked, “We never discuss it, put it that way. He delegates well and football keeps him young.”