Manchester United should consider radical manager move if Pochettino and Ten Hag pursuits fail – Daniel Murphy



Marcelo Bielsa.

Right, listen. I know what you’re thinking: ‘What?! Marcelo Bielsa?! The man who has never won a major trophy in over thirty years of management?! The guy who has just been sacked by Leeds United, a team in free fall having conceded 40 goals in just 12 games and looking likely for the drop?! The fella who sits on a bucket?! The manager so married to his style of football that he will never compromise regardless of the opposition he may face or the trouble his team might be in?! A former Leeds manager!?”

And yes, that’s the right man. Some criticisms of him may well be justified but others are ignorant. Manchester United should, at the very least, consider what he could bring to the club. They might just be surprised.

That’s only if they fail to get their top targets, though. The search is well underway, as the Manchester Evening News reported in January, with United aiming to appoint Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s full-time replacement before the end of the season.

READ MORE: John Murtough gives update on managerial search

The issue with that aim is that the top contenders – Mauricio Pochettino and Erik Ten Hag – are both still in high profile jobs at giant European clubs and still pushing for trophies on multiple fronts. It seems unlikely that either will upset their chances of winning silverware by deviating their focus from the task at hand.

Even then, maybe United isn’t much of an appealing role especially if Champions League football isn’t assured. It would benefit both candidates to wait out the season and see just what job they’d be walking into Old Trafford before deciding if they wish to sip from the poisoned chalice.

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Football director John Murtough provided an update on the search on Tuesday and said that the hunt would be ‘thorough’. He said: “We are now conducting a thorough process for the appointment of a new permanent manager who will take charge this summer, with the objective to get us back to challenging for those domestic and European titles.”

Yet there’s no chance that the club will be able to assess the same number of managers as they did right-backs, with options dwindling in quantity and quality once you move past the leading candidates. If neither Pochettino or Ten Hag want the job, then United could be in bother.

Brendan Rodgers was liked but Leicester’s form since those links first sprouted have put paid to that. Zinedine Zidane doesn’t appear to fancy it. United have already turned down the chance to hire Antonio Conte. Ralf Rangnick hasn’t yet done enough to make a permanent appointment seem wise.

The rest of the bookies’ favorites seem either very fanciful – Diego Simeone, Julian Nagglesman – or ridiculous with the likes of Roberto Mancini, Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher and Roy Keane all making the list. So, yeah, Bielsa.

Bielsa may seem equally ridiculous to many. There’s no doubt that hiring him would come with substantial risks. The Argentine has a tendency to butt heads with the powers at be at clubs and rarely stays long. He has just left Leeds with them perilously close to the drop. He hasn’t won a top-flight league since the early 1990s with Newell’s Old Boys and his other major success, apart from winning the Championship in some style with Leeds, came in the 2004 Olympics with his home country.

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His lack of silverware leads to the biggest problem at all: it may be difficult for him to win over the players. It’s the same problem Rangnick is having now. At Leeds, Bielsa was dealing with middling Championship players who were now starstruck by an international coach with new methods. At United, he would be dealing with pompous superstars who have proven time and again capable of throwing their coach under the bus before admitting and fixing their own faults.

But, and while it is of course a winning game and United desperately need to end their trophy drought, Bielsa is more than just medals. One just needs to look at the outpouring of grief from Leeds fans, players and the very man who sacked him to see that.

There would be huge benefits, too. If Bielsa could get the players to buy into his methods from him-and they should because they’ve had little success elsewhere to justify not doing-then United are guaranteed to play exciting football again. You know what you’re going to get with Bielsa: high-octane, relentless pressing, fast passing, all-out attack from the first minute to the last. United may grant but with the firepower he has seldom had during his three decades in management, well, they will certainly score some as well.

Plenty has been made about United’s DNA and style of play, or lack thereof, over the years but there hasn’t been one to point to in some time. At least not one fan liked. Bielsa has been doing the same thing in management for his entire career and you can guarantee he would bring a clear identity to Old Trafford, and a thrilling one at that.

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Bielsa improves players, too. He took Kalvin Phillips from a little-known Championship clogger to one of England’s most important players in their run to their first major final since 1966. He finally managed to get consistent goals out of Patrick Bamford. Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling, Jack Harrison and several more have all been improved considerably by his coaching him and are now household names. Think of what he could do to improve already household names whose talent is obvious but have been struggling to harness it for years?

Most important, just look at how he galvanized Leeds as a club. He took a fallen giant from the mire and made people fall in love with their club again. Doesn’t that sound like exactly what United need?

Pochettino and Ten Hag should obviously be United’s first choices, and if they can get them then great. But if not, well, United’s search won’t be thorough at all unless Bielsa is considered.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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