Manchester United will head into this summer with an unfamiliar situation of knowing they will be searching for a new manager, with Mauricio Pochettino one of the leading candidates to replace Ralf Rangnick. Not since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement has the club had months to weigh up choosing a successor for their current boss, and David Moyes proved to be the wrong choice.
With Rangnick set to stand aside from his interim role at the end of the season, it will bring a campaign of instability to a halt as United look to make a fresh start under a new, young and exciting manager.
The consensus suggests that Pochettino and Erik ten Hag are the two frontrunners competing to take the permanent role this summer.
But in deciding between the two candidates, the Man United board are making an unconscious choice on where they see the club in its current light.
Ten Hag is reportedly Rangnick’s preferred option to take the reins after spending five seasons at Ajax and for good reason too.
The Dutchman is likely to lead the Eredivisie outfit to their third title under his tenure, which is all the more impressive considering Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie De Jong and Hakim Ziyech were all sold in the space of a year.
But questions remain over whether he could handle the baggage that comes with managing stars such as Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.
That would be a point in Pochettino’s column, given his experience of working with PSG’s star-studded frontline of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Whether the Argentinian has successfully extracted their best performances together is another conversation, but he has survived for a year in a job many wouldn’t.
On the other side of the coin, Pochettino is still yet to add a league title to his CV, although he came close to leading Tottenham to glory.
That run is likely to end in two months’ time, with PSG currently 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and on course to snatch back the title.
But this is a league the French giants are expected to dominate every year — and some would argue that losing out to Lille last season was only overlooked because Pochettino replaced Thomas Tuchel halfway through the campaign.
United are looking to return to the top of English football, a place that was theirs to keep under Ferguson. However, it is clear that the days of appointing a short-term manager are over after the club decided against hiring Antonio Conte.
With that in mind, it could get worse for United before it gets better if they stick to their long-term vision.
Barring an unlikely Champions League triumph, they will finish the season with a trophy for a fifth straight year — and asking Ten Hag or Pochettino to win silverware would be a tall order.
It is widely accepted the squad will require another summer overhaul in order to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City. Neither coach has a demonstrable track record in securing the marquee signings that may be required to help the Red Devils catch up to their Premier League rivals.
Fortunately, they will have Rangnick, an experienced sporting director, operating in an consultancy role to help guide them build for the future.
Managing director Richard Arnold, who has succeeded Ed Woodward in running the club’s day-to-day operations, recently confirmed the process is underway to decide on their next permanent boss. At this juncture, there is no safe option available to United to pick from.
Considering how Ten Hag and Pochettino could take the club in two very different directions, it is a difficult call for Arnold to make — and one he cannot afford to get wrong.
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