Today, Louis Van Gaal was sacked after just two seasons in charge of Manchester United. The Dutch manager had made a series of disappointing signings and was heavily criticized for his in-game management of his players. After finishing in 4th in 2014-15 and 5th in 2015-16 playing a boring style of football, Louis Van Gaal was finally sacked.
But why should a boring manager be replaced by another boring manager? Jose Mourinho lost the dressing room in his last season at Chelsea. He completely lost the respect of the players and he suffered the consequences. Now going into another Premier League club where the stakes for success are even higher in Manchester United, what is there to suggest that this won’t happen again.
The Case for Jose Mourinho
One area of expertise that Jose Mourinho will certainly be able to do well in at United is the transfer market. In his second stint as Chelsea manger, Mourinho signed Willian, Cesc Fabregas, Kurt Zouma, Nemnja Matic and Diego Costa, all of whom were key in their title winning 2014-15 campaign. Jose Mourinho knows his way around the transfer market and knows how to get the absolute best out of the players he signs.
Mourinho is also very good at getting players to stick to their tasks and be defensively disciplined. But that is also something that Louis Van Gaal also knows how to do, and was heavily criticized for. But, that being said Mourinho has the type of resume that would make any manager jealous. Wherever he’s gone he’s seen success. Between Portugal, Spain, Italy and England, he’s won eight league titles and twenty-two major trophies, including Champions League victories with both FC Porto and Inter Milan. His resume is like none other but should a manager really be awarded a job based on resume alone?
Is Jose Mourinho actually a better choice than Louis Van Gaal? Yes. Jose Mourinho is a far superior manager than Louis Van Gaal. But, in style they are very similar men and Jose Mourinho with the amount of arrogance that he has, could easily lose the players in the dressing room again, just like he did at Chelsea and just like Van Gaal did at Manchester United.
Instead of Jose Mourinho, here are three better alternatives.
Ronald Koeman is one of the best managers in modern football. He plays an exciting, attacking style of play, gets the most out of his players and knows exactly how to tweak things in game to get the win. In his two seasons at Southampton, Koeman has taken an average side with a couple of standout players to finish 7th place in the 2014-15 table and 6th place in 2015-16. In that time he also scooped up three manager of the month awards, the same number that Mourinho managed to accumulate over six seasons as Chelsea manager.
Koeman also has three league titles on his resume, two with Ajax and one with PSV Eindhoven. Meanwhile, he also won the Copa del Rey in his short spell with Valencia. This is a man who knows how to win trophies and is slowly building his resume as one of the greatest tactician’s in the game. If Koeman doesn’t get a move to big club soon, I’ll be very surprised and if Ryan Giggs isn’t Jose Mourinho’s successor at Manchester United, Ronald Koeman certainly should be in the running. He has experience working at both Barcelona, arguably the best football club in the world and for the national side of Netherlands, one of the most dominant footballing countries as an assistant manager. Now, with all the experience in the world under his belt as one of the top managers in the Premier League, he could easily work at one of the top clubs in the world. Even a club that is bigger and better than Manchester United.
Although any of the other top five managers in La Liga (Simeone, Enrique, Zidane and Emery) would be a better choice, all four of those managers are far too good for Manchester United. One man who isn’t too good for Manchester United though and is slowly building his resume as a top manager is Marcelino, manager of Villarreal. Marcelino is what we call a tactical mastermind. He knows how to get the most out of his players and set a team up in a way that is going to win games. He’s not afraid to change things in-game or game-by-game, something Louis Van Gaal was incredibly stubborn about during his time at United. Marcelino took charge of Villarreal when they were in the second division, fighting for promotion. After leading them to promotion, he took Villarreal to a sixth place finish in their first season back in Spain’s top flight. He then followed that up with another sixth place finish in 2014-15. But the most impressive Villarreal side since Manuel Pellegrini left the club in 2009 was this season’s side, as Marcelino led them to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League and a 4th place finish in the table. Dealing with the added pressure of playing Europa League football and league football at the same time is an incredibly difficult task. Just ask Unai Emery who led his Sevilla side to their third Europa League title in three years, but only finished seventh in La Liga this year. Marcelino somehow made it work for Villarreal, showing exactly just how good of a manager he is.
The work he was able to do with Villarreal this season, to get them to finish fourth in the table and make it to the semi finals of the Europa League was astonishing given the players he had to work with. Denis Suarez, Cedric Bakambu and Bruno Soriano aren’t exactly household names but those were the club’s three best players this season. The only Villarreal player likely to be taking part in Euro 2016 this summer is Bruno Soriano, and even he might get cut before Spain’s final squad is announced. If Marcelino was given the chance to work with better players, who knows what he could achieve.
Although this would be a highly controversial decision, it’s undeniable that this would be a fantastic appointment for Manchester United. Manuel Pellegrini is one of the most decorated managers in all of modern football. The man has won two league titles in Argentina, one league title in Ecuador, the UEFA Intertoto Cup with Villarreal and most recently the Premier League title with Manchester City. On top of the 2013-14 BPL title, in his time with Manchester City, Pellegrini had a 60% win ratio, led them to their highest ever finish in the UEFA Champions League (a semi-final loss in 2015-16), and he won the Capital One Cup. He also won four Premier League Manager of the Month awards in three seasons, more than Mourinho managed six seasons with Chelsea. In Louis Van Gaal’s time as manager of Manchester United, he couldn’t even get them to the quarter finals of the Europa League. Manuel Pellegrini would certainly be an improvement on that front.
His time at Manchester City wasn’t the only impressive thing about his career, he also led an average Malaga side to the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2012-13, kept a decent Villarreal side at the top end of the league, finishing as high as 2nd and as low as 7th in his five year spell and he had an incredibly good 2009-10 season with Real Madrid where they finished 2nd with 96 points, the most a second-place team had ever achieved in the league at that time. Manuel Pellegrini knows how to get the respect of his players. He’s a calm, respectful man who knows what it takes to win trophies. He would never lose the Manchester United dressing room, just like he never did at Manchester City and he’d be an excellent choice for next Manchester United manager.
Even though Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Manchester United is imminent, don’t be surprised if it’s short-lived. Despite his impressive resume, his arrogance is no worse than Louis Van Gaal and could easily get him in trouble. If Manchester United were to sign one of these three managers above, I can guarantee that it would be a longer-lasting love-affair than Jose Mourinho’s time at Manchester United will ever be.