• Premier League

The men to replace Moyes at United

ESPN staff
April 22, 2014
David Moyes endured the worst possible start to his tenure at United © Getty Images

After Manchester United dispensed with the services of David Moyes in an early morning meeting on Tuesday, one thing became abundantly clear: Sir Alex Ferguson would not influence the choice of replacement in the same way he did for his successor.

Old Trafford sources say the Glazer owners will be much more active in the recruitment process than they were last year when Moyes was appointed - some said at the time annointed - largely thanks to his fellow Scotsman.

The first problem with replacing Ferguson was always going to be, above all else, presence. It was precisely because the legendary Scot was in charge for a barely imaginable 26 years that the choice for Manchester United should have boiled down to two men: Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

They were the only two managers who had both the utter self-assurance and extreme success to handle the inevitable fallout from such a seismic event as Ferguson retiring. It remains remarkable that, in a summer when United were "fortunate" enough that the 72-year-old departed when both of those coaches were changing jobs, they ended up with neither.

More important than anything, they were also the only two with sufficient cult of personality to make the entire narrative about them rather than just replacing the 72-year-old.

David Moyes, however, has diverted the story in an altogether different direction. It is no longer about succeeding Ferguson but saving United.

That also means that the job specification itself has changed. It is not as daunting. For the man who replaces the manager who succeeded Ferguson, it will be easier. It is no longer be about replacing a legend but rather an unfortunate figure who lost his way.

The club may want someone as close in quality as possible to Ferguson, but any more modern coach would play better football than Moyes's team have done - and results surely can't get worse next season.

The contenders are wide-ranging but with Ryan Giggs stepping in as a stop-gap management team until the end of the season, United do not have to panic as they consider the merits of these front runners:

Juergen Klopp

Juergen Klopp has the right personality to be United manager © Getty Images

The speculation surrounding Klopp and United is fervent enough for the man himself to be drawn to comment within 90 minutes of Moyes' official dismissal. "Man United is a great club and I feel very familiar with their wonderful fans. But my commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable." That bond may well be put to the test in the coming days and weeks.

He doesn't yet have the success of Mourinho or Guardiola but he certainly has the force of personality. Quite simply, Klopp is in the next tier down from those two as a manager but the likeliest of everyone else to join them. There is just something so exciting about the German.

Even aside from his whole approach, style of play and the sheer charisma, Klopp sends a ripple through the game. It might be an obvious example, but you only have to listen to the way a figure such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic talks about him. You can imagine a similar effect on United.

The Borussia Dortmund coach would just breathe life into Old Trafford again and completely change the dynamic. Beyond those kinds of intangibles, too, there is the way he is trying to push boundaries in the game: Klopp practises truly modern football.

Of course, the 46-year-old has said he does not plan to leave Dortmund until 2018 but that would also be a statement that United simply must test to the fullest. In short, since they didn't get Mourinho or Guardiola, this is the man the English champions should be striving for. It would be a new club, and a proper new era.

Louis van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal will be in charge of the Netherlands at this summer's World Cup © Getty Images

The Dutch coach has looked certain to go to Tottenham but it is reported he has other offers to consider and he has let it be known that taking charge at United has a great appeal.

Van Gaal, at 62 years old, may not necessarily be the longest-term option and will bring an abrasive approach which will upset some. However, that may be precisely what the soon-to-be deposed English champions require at this juncture: Someone to steady the ship, restore some prise and instil a resilience that the club can build from to reach a higher platform.

Van Gaal has always excelled in all of those areas. Furthermore, for all the notorious stories about how difficult he is, trophies have come rather easy to him too.

This is a man who has won a Champions League with Ajax, guided Bayern Munich to the final, won two leagues with Barcelona and then one -- most remarkably -- with AZ.

That is success across two decades, and from a broad range of challenges. In that, it is almost reminiscent of Ferguson. Van Gaal would certainly restore competitiveness.

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs has the respect of the United dressing room © Getty Images

He has become United's interim manager, so will have the perfect opportunity to impress the Glazers. What price a rejuvenated squad winning their last four matches of the season - Norwich, Sunderland and Hull at home, followed by Southampton away on the final day - and sweeping Giggs into the role full-time?

Respected in the dressing room for all his achievements in the game and his phenomenal longevity, he would certainly have the backing from a squad that never truly got behind Moyes and his methods.

It might be leading United into the same trap that many other clubs have fallen in the past, the one marked "club legend becomes manager" but it worked for Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish in the mid-80s as they sought to establish continuity from their most glorious era. Even with the Moyes interlude, that is the scenario United are faced with now.

It is also not out of the question that Giggs forms part of Van Gaal's management team if the Dutchman is appointed, as United look to the long-term future.

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid are challenging the Spanish duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona © AP

Another manager who simply emanates an aura of abrasive control, and that is precisely what United need.

Put it like this, while someone such as Manuel Pellegrini is clearly an excellent coach, he is also one who really best suits specific scenarios - the style of creative player at Manchester City, for example.

Simeone, by contrast, is the sort of bullish personality you can imagine going into pretty much any situation but having an identical effect: instilling a team with his combativeness, as well as his canniness.

United have been something of a laughing stock this season. That would simply cease under Simeone. What's more, it's not like it ends there with him. He is taking Atletico Madrid to heights that their recent history and resources should not allow. That indicates something much deeper in him and the potential to go even further.

Fabio Capello

Fabio Capello would not be cowed by reputation © Getty Images

The former England manager could represent a similar sort of choice to Van Gaal. If he is not exactly going to build a lasting dynasty, his sense of discipline would bring United closer to their natural level, and put the club back on track.

Capello is one of those managers who carries certain guarantees with regard to performance, and is not the type to be cowed by reputation or circumstance. Even if his own reputation in England isn't exactly high after his time with the national team, it should barely need to be pointed out that was basically the only "failure" of his career.

Otherwise, Capello has enjoyed success at every side he has been with: Milan, Real Madrid in two spells, Juventus and now Russia. That would indicate the problem was with England, not Capello, and that the Italian is still the kind of serious man to solve United's most immediate issues.

Antonio Conte

Conte is "blazing through the domestic game" © PA Photos

One of those upwardly mobile coaches in the tier behind Klopp. It could perhaps even be said Conte is where the German was around 2011, blazing through the domestic game but still just on the cusp of a proper statement on the continent.

Even if he still has some way to go in that regard, though, the Italian's winning record is significantly further along than Moyes'. His imaginative approach to tactics would also rid United of this dismally predictable rigidity.

They would be an engaging team to watch again, and there would be a sense of something modern about them again. The same would apply to a coach like Frank de Boer. Conte, essentially, would bring a retrograde team right into the realities of 2014.

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