Less than a week ago, Jose Mourinho’s move back to Chelsea looked like a done deal. But following the announcement yesterday from Old Trafford about Sir Alex Ferguson plan to retire at the end of this season; doubt has surfaced over where the Special One will end up. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will be highly motivated to secure the Real Madrid coach sooner rather than later, if he hasn’t done so already, as he will be keen to avoid going through the same public embarrassment he felt when his first choice Pep Guardiola spurred his advances in favour of Bayern Munich.
Mourinho has been vocal about his desire to leave Real Madrid for some months now but his destination has regularly been hid under a cloud of thought provoking statements like I know “I am loved by some clubs, especially one”. Many assumed that this was Mourinho’s way of expressing passionately about his desire to return to Chelsea but now with the United job a real prospect, others are now re-examining his words and how he said them. Was he being honest or was the statement sarcastic, hinting instead about the way United fans feel about him. It’s hard to believe that Sir Alex has just made this decision over the past few weeks so it’s conceivable that a deal has already been struck some months ago for Mourinho to take over the reins at Old Trafford. Ferguson hinted that he and United legend Bobby Charlton had been talking about potential replacements if he decided to quit which cements the theory that this is not fresh news to the club’s owners and board. His love hate relationship for Mourinho aside, Ferguson knows that the Portuguese coach would be a success if he took over, making the decision somewhat easier but it may be Charlton who sways his final call.
Charlton has been vocal in his appreciation for Mourinho as a person but doesn’t feel he is the right fit for the club going forward. He would prefer instead that the club turn to another Scot to follow in Sir Alex’s footsteps, Everton’s David Moyes. Having spent the last eleven years at Goodison, Moyes looks set to leave after repeatedly delaying negotiations of a new contract, citing his desire to see where the club was going first before committing for longer. Over the past few months, Moyes name has been bandied around in connection with several clubs in Germany, most notably Schalke but so far nothing has materialized. That may be because his agent and brother Kenny has already done the deal that will take him to Old Trafford at the end of the season.
Besides from the two front runners, other names have been linked to the job such as Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Juventus coach Antonio Conte and Swansea’s Michael Laudrup as well as former United players Laurent Blanc, Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer and Steve Bruce. Even current players Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have been touted around but the smart money is on either Moyes or Mourinho. Both men make a lot of sense but for different reasons. Mourinho knows how to win, having picked up trophies in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain including the coveted Champions League twice and brings with him an international pedigree that will help to attract the world’s top stars. Tactically smart and good at getting the best out of his players, United could expect to continue where they left off with Sir Alex if Mourinho took over. However some find him arrogant and difficult to work with public bust ups with players common place.
Moyes on the other hand makes for a more compelling hire. Softly spoken yet determined to get the best from his squad, Moyes is one of the best coaches in England at the moment. Having spent the past 11 years at Everton, his commitment to the club will resonate well with the United board who want to hire someone for another 26 years of success just like Ferguson has given them. In addition he has successfully managed to make Everton competitive in a majority of the seasons he has been in charge, often with little or no budgets available to strengthen the squad. Being clever in the transfer market and nurturing young talent like Wayne Rooney and Jack Rodwell, both sold for hefty fees, will also impress the powers that be in Manchester. With the UEFA enforced financial fair play rules soon to be brought into play, having a manager at the helm who can work with tight budgets put Moyes in a very strong position.
Regardless of whom gets the nod (and we won’t have to wait long with an announcement due before the weekend) Sir Alex will be a hard act to follow. The 72 year old will step down as manager of Manchester United after 26 years in charge, having won a staggering 38 trophies including 13 league titles, two Champions Leagues, five FA Cups and four League Cups. His last game in charge will be away to West Brom and ironically his 1,500 game in charge. It seems like the best time for him to go, after winning the club’s 20th league title and firmly establishing them as one of the best teams in the world. It will be strange for United to begin next season without Sir Alex in the dugout but whoever is the boss they will know deep down that he will be an impossible act to follow.