In an alternative universe, this weekend could well have been Brendan Rodgers’ latest audition for the Manchester United managerial position, but instead, he heads to Old Trafford looking to prove why he is still the right man to lead Leicester.
United are believed to have sounded out Rodgers about possibly replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when the Norwegian was still in charge last year, but Rodgers bristled whenever it was brought up during press conferences, insisting his focus was on the job in hand.
It’s hard to envisage any universe in which United supporters would gladly have welcomed the former Liverpool boss to Old Trafford, though there are certainly reasons why he was initially admired by United chiefs.
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Leicester beat United three times in 2021 — as many as they had in their last 36 meetings — and their 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium was the first of four league defeats in Solskjaer’s last five games as United manager.
They have also done so by playing very attractive football, culminating with an FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last season, while Rodgers has also managed to develop a number of promising youngsters in his time at the King Power Stadium. He is also boosted by the fact he has managed at two giant clubs, Liverpool and Celtic, and has experience of dealing with big egos at both.
Yet there have always been unshakeable concerns about the manner in which Rodgers’ Liverpool side spurned the opportunity to win an historic title back in 2014 and how his Leicester sides have thrown away Champions League football from such lofty positions to finish fifth in the last two seasons .
Whenever the pressure is truly on, they seem to struggle, and like United in recent years they have always prospered as underdogs and underwhelmed as favourites.
That too seems to be the case in regards to the floating interest shown in Rodgers. The Northern Irishman is under mounting pressure to continue at Leicester and finds himself 10th in the Premier League after a season of inconsistency.
Despite a recent return of five wins from their past seven matches, the Foxes have struggled for form all season and were humiliated during a 4-1 FA Cup defeat away at the hands of local rivals Nottingham Forest.
The ambition for Rodgers no longer seems to be to use the work at Leicester as a springboard for a better job this summer, but instead to prove why he deserves more time in the role at the King Power. United’s focus is now primarily on Erik ten Hag as they go in search of a new manager, with Rodgers ‘no longer believed to be a genuine candidate, despite the previous floating interest in his availability.
The 49-year-old deserves praise for the work he has done to transform Leicester into genuine top-four contenders on a regular basis, but his drop off in form couldn’t have come at a worse time.
He might well get his shot at redemption with an elite club some time in the future. But with United’s eyes elsewhere, the trip to Old Trafford this weekend is not a job interview but a chance to remind others why he should still be considered.