The key question Manchester United should be asking in manager interviews – Tyrone Marshall


It feels fitting that Manchester United have stepped up the interview process to appoint their next manager in the week when The Apprentice final airs, given so many events at Old Trafford in recent years have felt like they’ve been scripted especially for TV.

The reality TV series recruits for a new addition every year and the way they’ve been going since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement nine years ago United are only marginally less prolific employers.

But there’s a sense that this decision is the most important yet for the Old Trafford hierarchy, with chief executive Richard Arnold and football director John Murtough now in the decision-making chairs. After a season that promised so much but has turned into a nightmare, the appointment of the next manager has to be with a long-term plan for success in mind.

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The pressure in modern football, especially at the highest level, encourages short-termism and United are too big to simply write off a season or two in the pursuit of a more stable strategy, but Arnold and Murtough must pick a man and back them. They have to get this right.

The difficulty with that is that there is no standout candidate, despite the legion of fans Erik ten Hag has on social media. The 52-year-old is considered by many to be the next big thing in coaching, despite being older than Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola and with a good but hardly flawless resume.

Ten Hag has already been interviewed for the job and Pochettino is expected to follow, while Julen Lopetegui and Luis Enrique aren’t out of contention.

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Last month Gary Neville pinpointed what he felt United needed, but the task is a daunting one for whoever gets the job.

“The manager has got to be right next season to be able to take on Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp because if you don’t take on those three with a manager who can face them like-for-like, you will get beat up, said Neville.

“It has been proven over the last few years that great managers in this league will bring you great things; Manchester United need a great manager to compete with the ones that are at that level in this league at this moment in time.”

It’s certainly ideal that United appoint a manager who can immediately take on Guardiola and Klopp, but that is a short-term aim and whoever gets the job, the chances of a title challenge next season are extremely slim.

Instead, the biggest question for Ten Hag, Pochettino and anybody else going up before the interview panel should be on how they plan to capitalize when Guardiola and Klopp go, which at the moment is expected to be 2023 and 2024 respectively.

Winning a title before then would be an incredible achievement for United, but there has to be a realism that usurping Manchester City and Liverpool at the moment would require a herculean effort, given they have managers who have been at their clubs for six years and seven years and have had a long-term plan for success.

That’s what it will take for United to reach that level, faith in the right manager and a recruitment strategy geared up for long-term success, rather than desperate attempts to make the team competitive in the here and now.

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So rather than worrying about Ten Hag or Pochettino plan to take down Guardiola and Klopp when they don’t have the tools for the job at their disposal, the question should be how they plan to build a team ready to capitalize on any uncertainty at the Etihad and Anfield in the years ahead.

Both City and Liverpool look to have a long-term vision, but the modern Manchester City has been built for one man and that is Guardiola, while Klopp’s emotion and energy sustain Liverpool. Replacing them is going to be an almost impossible challenge for both clubs.

That is when United should be seeking to peak under their new manager. If they get two or three years down the line from this summer and are at the point where they’re seeking another new boss, or debating whether they’ve got the right man, then this decision will have been a disastrous one.

That’s why it is the long-term view that is most important in these interviews. It’s been a wretched nine years for United, watching their rivals have all the fun, but those clubs will be faced with similar challenges of their own soon and at Old Trafford they need to be positioning themselves to take advantage.

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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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