Manchester United are considering candidates including Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag, Luis Enrique and Brendan Rodgers to take charge from next summer after sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
Solskjær lost his job a month short of his three-year anniversary as manager after Saturday’s dismal 4-1 loss at Watford. On Sunday the Norwegian gave an emotional farewell interview to the club, tears welling in his eyes, as United also started searching for an interim coach to take over for the rest of this season.
There is no timeframe regarding that appointment and Michael Carrick, one of Solskjær’s coaching staff, will oversee Tuesday’s Champions League group match at Villarreal and continue leading the side until someone is found. Lokomotiv Moscow’s head of sports and development, Ralf Rangnick, may be a candidate.
Of those who could take over for the longer term, Zidane has the outstanding CV. He guided Real Madrid to three consecutive Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles across two spells, the second of which ended in May. But though the 49-year-old is out of work, he has not previously regarded England as an ideal fit.
It is understood Pochettino would be keen to take the job. The Paris Saint-Germain manager was coveted by United during his tenure at Tottenham but the timing was never right for him. However he has never played down his interest in United.
PSG, who have no desire to change manager mid-season, activated a one-year option on Pochettino’s contract in summer after he was linked with a return to Spurs. His deal runs to June 2023 but an agreement allowing him to leave could be possible at the end of this campaign. In a 13-year, four-club managerial career Pochettino has won only one trophy – last season’s Coupe de France.
Despite PSG being 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, Pochettino has been heavily criticised for his team’s performances. He is still living in a hotel in Paris, with his wife, Karina, remaining in the family home in London.
Ten Hag’s resume shows two Eredivisie titles with Ajax, including last season’s, and he guided the Dutch side to the Champions League semi-final in 2019 before Pochettino’s Spurs knocked them out. On Sunday Ten Hag attempted to distance himself from United. “I am focused on my team,” he told ESPN. “We have a brilliant squad and we want to achieve a lot. I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too. I heard nothing about it, so I can’t think about it.”
Zidane, Pochettino or Ten Hag would represent an upgrade on Solskjær with regard to tactical acumen, as would Enrique or Rodgers. Enrique, who claimed the second treble of Barcelona’s history by winning La Liga, the Champions League and a Copa del Rey in 2014-15, is Spain’s coach and laughed off links to United. Taking the job next summer would mean missing the chance to lead his country to the World Cup in Qatar.
“Is it Día de los Inocentes [Spain’s April Fool’s Day]?” he said on Sunday. “I’m at the biggest team in Spain: the selección. There are 5,000 players, I have all the players I could wish for. Bigger than that, what is there?”
Rodgers claimed two Scottish titles, two Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups in less than three years at Celtic before he departed in 2019 for Leicester City, with whom he won last season’s FA Cup.
Of links with United, Rodgers said on Saturday: “I spoke to the [players’] leadership group because I hear little bits and pieces and it just stabilises everything. They know my commitment to them, they know my commitment to the club, to here, so also to us becoming a better team.”
Solskjær came close to tears as he backed Carrick. “I’m becoming emotional now because he’s top, they’ll be fine,” he told MUTV. “I’ll watch them and support them.”
The outgoing manager, who embraced a supporter before driving away from United’s training ground, acknowledged the team “couldn’t get the results we needed and it’s time for me to step aside” but said: “I’m going to leave by the front door, because I think everyone knows I’ve given everything for this club.” His assistants Mike Phelan and Kieran McKenna are staying.
A statement from United, who are eighth, six points off fourth place, said: “Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision. While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.”
The board felt Solskjær had earned the right to be given a final chance to turn things around after the most recent international break but concluded change was needed after the desired reaction was not seen at Watford. “Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season,” United said.