The Challenges That Await the Next Manchester United Manager
Erik Ten Hag? Mauricio Pochettino? Julen Lopetegui? Whoever the next manager of Manchester United is will have a large in tray awaiting them upon arrival.
Sir Alex Ferguson never finished outside of the Champions League places in the Premier League era. Since his retirement in 2013, the club has finished outside the Champions League places on four occasions in nine seasons.
As I am writing this piece in early April, it seems certain that United under Ralf Rangnick will finish out with the top four for a fifth time in ten years. Abysmal given the spending power and status of the Manchester side.
The Old Trafford faithful haven’t seen a trophy paraded in front of them since Josè Mourinho delivered the Europa League back in 2017.
Five years on, that has to change and the new manager will know that. However, there are other pressing priorities that have to be addressed before trophies can return to the club.
Evaluating the Current Squad
This summer marks a change for Manchester United not only in the dugout but in the playing squad too. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata have contacts due to expire in June 2022.
There are also serious question marks over the long-term future of a number of players including Marcus Rashford, Dean Henderson, Donny van de Beek, Antony Martial and numerous other players at the club.
So, no matter who takes over from Ralf Rangnick is going to have some serious decisions to make regarding the current squad before they even think about recruiting players of their own.
The future seemed bright when Manchester United required Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho in one window last summer. However, things have not gone to plan for the club and a rebuild of the current squad is required.
It is feasible to argue that every key area in the spine of the team (centre back, central midfield and centre forward) need to be improved upon from their current state.
To do so in one window is a big ask for a manager at any level of football. Factor in (likely) Europa League football and that task could be even more difficult as the top clubs in Europe compete with one another for talent.
Over £1 billion has been spent since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and it is imperative that the club commits serious financial resources this summer for the arrival of new talent.
The World Cup being played in winter should aid United in being able to do their business efficiently in order to give any new coach ample time to work with the new squad in preparation for the opening weekend of the 22/23 Premier League on August 6th.
However, that is easier said than done as any Manchester United fan will tell you given the experiences of the last decade that have seen transfer deadline day deals become more than a one off occurrence.
Galvanising the Support
Manchester United has a large and loyal fanbase. Large sections of the fanbase are increasingly angry at what they see as the neglect from the Glazer family who have had full control of the club since 2005.
Controversially, the Glazers bought the club using a leveraged buy-out and racked up hundreds of millions of pounds in the process.
They were also at the forefront of the proposal to form a European Super League (along with the owners of five other Premier League clubs) which led to widespread anger and revolt from football fans across England.
The ownership have promised more communication and transparency with fans but according to MUST, those promises haven’t been forthcoming in the way that they were proposal as of yet.
Despite the anger and derision at the ownership, the United fans continue to back their team each week and hope that the next managerial change can usher in a new era of hope.
There is no doubt that whoever walks through the door at Old Trafford will receive support in abundance from the fans but with that support will come expectation for a club who have now gone five years without silverware.
Working Within an Unusual Structure
Unlike many elite European football clubs, United don’t appear to have the most fluid footballing structure off the field to complement the work of their first team coach.
John Murtough is the United’s football director and Darren Fletcher is the technical director. Intriguingly, Fletcher is often seen on the touchline or in the dugout on a match day which is unusual when compared to his contemporaries such as Chelsea’s Petr Cech or Liverpool’s Michael Edwards.
Current interim manager Ralf Rangnick also highlighted this to the English media when he stated that he was not entirely sure what Fletcher’s role at the club was.
Both men assumed their roles during the current season following many years of working at the club internally in different roles while the club followed an old-school dual axis model of having a Chief Executive and Manager working together on key decisions.
It has also been reported that any decisions made at United have to be rubber stamped by co-owner Joel Glazer in the US which could be said to further complicate matters.
Furthermore, current interim manager Ralf Rangnick is set to stay on at the club for the next two years in an as yet undefined ‘consultancy’ role.
Surely, these roles have to be sufficiently defined and proactively operational to enable any new coach to have as smooth a transition into the managerial hot seat as possible.
Winning should be the main objective of a club like Manchester United. However, that has not been the case in recent years.
Distant second place finishes to Manchester City under Josè Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have been as good as it’s got for United in the Premier League for the past decade.
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The next manager will need to build a team capable of changing that reality in order to compete and win the trophies that have defined United throughout their history, namely the Premier League and the Champions League.
That is not to say that success in the domestic cups would not be welcomed at the club however the reality for a club of United’s stature is that they should be built to win the elite trophies in world football.
That task does not look an easy one at this point in time but it will still be the ultimate expectation and responsibility of the incumbent manager.
Good luck to whoever takes the reigns at the club in the near future. They are certainly going to need luck in addition to the fanatical and financial backing that will come their way in the meantime.
By: Callum McFadden / @Callum7McFadden
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Popperfoto