It is clear evidence of the confusion which continues to tear at the heart of Manchester United that at least half a dozen managers have at some stage topped their wishlist this season. Having started by handing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a new three-year deal back in August, Antonio Conte was considered when he was sacked in November.
From there Mauricio Pochettino was unsuccessfully courted at Paris St-Germain, Erik Ten Hag sounded out and then Ralf Rangnick appointed on an interim basis. All of them, so the vibes from inside Old Trafford suggested, were the best possible fit for United at the time.
It would be generous to say that the changing demands of their situation in the league could lead to such indecision. But that would be too kind. It has been a whirlwind during which key players on United’s board, which has itself experienced upheaval with Ed Woodward’s departer, have simply not known which way to jump.
The latest coach to rise to the top of the list is Thomas Tuchel who looks on so many levels a perfect fit if he were he not waiting, probably hopefully, on potential new owners of Chelsea. But the raw and unpalatable facts now are whether United, quite probably without Champions League football next season and with a squad in need of overhaul, are an attractive proposition for his calibre of coach.
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At United the incoming boss will inherit a dysfunctional and divided dressing room in which at least nine players are actively looking for a move away, not least Cristiano Ronaldo for whom a swansong in the Europa League will not appeal one bit. Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and possibly Dean Henderson are all eyeing the exit door.
It will need a strong character and a big personality to bend all those egos to a collective purpose. But whoever comes in is also likely to need at least three years to turn United around but no one since Alex Ferguson has been afforded such breathing space.
Rangnick faces a massive job in trying to qualify for the Champions League from this point. With nine games to go he accepted they had to win “six if not seven of the games and win away at Arsenal”. It is a big ask but not as big as getting the call on the next manager right.