Connect with us

Manchester United News

What if Fergie walks away? (Part I)

Before I start, thanks for all your comments on my previous article. I hope you’ll appreciate the irony when I say that the best thing about this blog is the spectrum of contributors from all across the world, and it was great to hear your take on my Anglo-centric views. I tried to pull together my responses to those comments in post 52 in that thread, so have a look if you’re still interested in the debate.

Now, here’s some fodder to keep our minds off the unbearable tension that will be next Sunday….

There is a mischievous rumour doing the rounds that Fergie will leave on a high if we win the double. This was touched upon in the comments to this thread at numbers 25-35, approximately. I thought it was worthy of an article, because the “who’s next” guessing game is always fun and hasn’t been played for a while and because I (as usual) have some fairly particular opinions on the point which I want to hear your thoughts on.

First off, let me say that I don’t think it will happen. Anyone who saw Fergie in the centre circle after the West Ham game will be clear that he was in no way saying goodbye to the fans. He has built a great young squad that can only get better — he ain’t walking away now and letting someone else reap the rewards. He’s going to make up for those three years of pain by living with this team as well.

If you want to read more debate on this subject (and you should, because it involves the opinions of Martin Samuel, who is the best football columnist around by a long chalk), have a look at the Times website here.

The ground rules

But football’s a funny old game, and you never know. So let’s look at the possible contenders and the qualifications they would need to take over.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the names that spring to mind. I’ll put them in my order of preference at the end of the article.

– Carlos Queiroz
– Martin O’Neill
– Jose Mourinho
– Roy Keane
– Mark Hughes
– generic successful foreign manager (Ancellotti, Scolari, Capello, Hitzfeld, Klinsmann, etc etc)
– Sven

Here also are the things I think the next manager should have:

– experience with a variety of teams, preferably including the Premier League
– experience of winning trophies, preferably as manager
– proven ability to motivate players, both individually and as a unit
– prospective loyalty to Manchester United (in other words not viewing United as a stepping stone to another job, or one job in a shopping list of things to do in a career)
– record of commitment to a club as a whole, including youth team set up and other back room staff

I’m also going to think about possible assistants to each manager, because I think that will be a very important aspect in the success of the transition. If you want any evidence of the importance of the assistant manager, just compare our record in seasons where we have had a genuine assistant (Kidd, McClaren, Queiroz) to the seasons where Fergie has been operating on his own with help from the rest of the back room staff. ‘Nuff said.

The contenders

Carlos Queiroz

Experience and Success – good coaching experience prior to joining United, but disastrous season as manager of Real Madrid.
Motivation – undoubtedly responsible for our Portuguese / Brazilian contingent settling so well and performing to their ability. Failed to gain respect of high-profile Madrid players.
Loyalty – good, as far as we know. Came back to us after Real, which is a good sign. Risky, though — if he became manager and continued to recruit Portuguese / South American players and then left, most of them would be severely unsettled.
Clubman – certainly has a vision for United, and has taken responsibility for bringing in many of the next generation. Also has a strong network of scouts and contacts in “his” areas.

Ideal assistant – needs an English speaker who is United to the core. Bryan Robson would be perfect, since he finally seems to have accepted that the top jobs are not for him. Other less experienced possibilities are Gary Neville (if his injury gets the better of him), Ryan Giggs and Ole Solskjaer.

Martin O’Neill

Experience and Success – wide-ranging. Did a sterling job with Leicester in the Premiership, making them a top ten club with almost no resources; domestically successful with Celtic, and lost a UEFA Cup final to Mourinho’s cheating Porto; has turned Villa around with good prospects for next season.
Motivation – forged a fantastic team spirit at Leicester and Villa, making them punch above their weight both in terms of resources and squad size. Kept his team together well at Celtic.
Loyalty – O’Neill is never going to manage outside these shores, and so United is likely to be his last stop if he does well. No history with us, though.
Clubman – unquestionably looks after the whole club and is capable of building a team over time to a vision. Plays good football when his resources allow.

Ideal assistant – well, if he’ll stay as coach, CQ. That will be the case for all the other contenders. But it wouldn’t surprise anyone if CQ left if he was passed over, so failing him someone young, energetic and United to the core. I’m thinking Giggsy…

Jose Mourinho

Experience and Success – we’ve all had it rammed down our throats — Porto & Chelsea, etc. Impressive trophy cabinet. Guaranteed success, almost, which is important both to the fans and the owners.
Motivation – based on evidence at Chelsea, every bit as good as Fergie — players would run through brick walls for him. On the plus side, if CQ left we have another Portuguese to replace him, which would reduce the risk of an exodus.
Loyalty – Looks like he’s set for a tour of the big European clubs, with a stop off in the Portugal national squad — no way we’re keeping him until he retires.
Clubman – Was never allowed to do anything other than first team affairs at Chelsea, so undecided. Plays dire football, though — remember that comment he made to his players before last season’s FA Cup final? “Do you want to enjoy the game, or enjoy after the game?”. Sorry for being trite, but both please.

Ideal assistant – irrelevant. He’ll bring his own back room staff, although again it would be good to see him retain a United presence, like Steve Clarke at Chelsea.

Roy Keane

Experience and Success – has done as well as anyone could have expected with Sunderland, getting them promoted and then keeping them up despite a rough start. Seen and done it all as a player.
Motivation – unproven with big enough names and egos to rival his own, but everyone at Sunderland seems in awe of him. At least as ruthless as Fergie.
Loyalty – if he was successful enough, you could see him being United manager for ever.
Clubman – again, doing well based on limited evidence.

Ideal assistant – CQ. Needs a first class coach and someone with lots of experience alongside him. I honestly don’t think it would work with anyone else, but I also don’t think CQ would let Keano be brought in over his head, and there would be a risk of the lines of authority being blurred.

Mark Hughes

Experience and Success – Wales and Blackburn. He has made both better than the sum of their parts, which is high praise for any manager – in particular Wales, with a limited player pool and a tough group. If only they hadn’t lost to Azerbaijan, they would have qualified for the Euros despire being in Italy’s group. Short of club European experience as a manager, though.
Motivation – unarguable with both teams. Managed difficult personalities like Robbie Savage, and has subdued big egos like Benni McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz.
Loyalty – like Keano, this would be the peak of his managerial career.
Clubman – has done a good job bringing young players into the Blackburn team. After a rocky start with earned them the name Blackeye Rovers, he seems to be committed to good, attacking football.

Ideal assistant – again CQ would be ideal — see Keano. Otherwise, someone with extensive experience. I’m thinking Brian Kidd…


This was more in here as a joke, but nobody can question his experience and he did a very good job at City. Still, I’m an England fan and the scars run deep…

Miscellaneous European manager

There will inevitably be some big foreign names linked, but it’s impossible to know who. And this post is long enough without going into detail on all the possible contenders. If someone else wants to in the comments, then be my guest.

In fact, this post has become too long to be continued, so I’m going to stop here and let you debate the contenders as I have presented them. I will then write part 2 of this article in a couple of days, which will give my preferences, try to address any comments made, and talk about how the process is likely to work in practice. Happy ranting.