The pool is shallow but Manchester United still need to dive in headfirst.
United are now on the hunt for their next permanent manager but it’s slim pickings at the moment, certainly in terms of quality coaches who are not attached to a club and are freely available.
Years of the club failing to seize opportunities when they are begging to be taken have left them in this precarious position.
In an age of football where an elite coach is required to be successful, United wilfully dug their head in the sand and instead spouted flimsy platitudes of club DNA and spirit.
While they continued to persevere with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the chances to hire Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte all passed them by. Going back further, if United had the same ruthless streak as Liverpool did when they sacked Brendan Rodgers to bring in Jurgen Klopp, perhaps it would be them sitting pretty with one of the world’s best managers right now.
Instead, they are left stuttering with a well-renowned coach and football innovator, though one who has managed just one top-flight season in the past decade, hasn’t got much time to implement his ideas and, as a result, is struggling, on an interim basis.
United are now left in a position where their top managerial candidates are now already hired and prising them loose could prove difficult.
MEN Sport understands the club could appoint their next permanent boss before the end of the season, with developments being made in the hiring process.
However, the fact that current front runners – Pochettino and Erik ten Hag – and the under consideration Brendan Rodgers, are all currently employed elsewhere complicates matters.
Paris Saint-Germain may get trigger happy should they come unstuck in the Champions League once again but are otherwise set to cruise to another Ligue 1 title as Pochettino has started to get to grips with his wealth of attacking talent. They have little reason to sack him unless Zinedine Zidane makes it clear he wants the job.
Ten Hag has hinted he could be ready for a bigger challenge but is a poison chalice like United an attractive option when he has it so good in Amsterdam? He has been given the patience to build two excellent teams and has enjoyed great success at the club. Either way, with his contract not set to expire until 2023, United will still have to make it worth Ajax’s while to let him go this year.
Finally, Rodgers doesn’t even look like a contender anymore. His Leicester side have struggled ever since the possibility of him taking over at Old Trafford was first touted last year and his record in Europe certainly doesn’t make him an attractive option.
So if United are unable to get any of their top candidates what can they do? Well, another manager in employment could be an interesting alternative.
Many raised their eyebrows when Brighton sacked Chris Hughton to hire Graham Potter, a manager who had made his name in Sweden and had managed just 51 games at Swansea City.
Yet it has proved to be a masterstroke. In Potter’s two-and-a-half seasons in charge, he has changed Brighton from a plucky Premier League newcomer struggling to keep their necks above water to one of the league’s best footballing sides. They currently sit ninth in the table, with a Europa League place a possibility, and only a reliable goal scorer has prevented them from seriously challenging for the top four.
This season alone they have held Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea twice to draws, all games they could have won as they continue to fight well above their weight.
Potter has done so without spending massive bags of cash either. The most he has spent on a player is £20million, for Adam Webster and Neal Maupay, while Leandro Trossard cost £18million. Every other signing has come in for under £10million and they have tended to be young players with plenty of potential which he has then gone on to develop further.
It’s clear that Potter is destined for bigger and better things, his trajectory is going only one way. He’s an exciting coach who players attractive football, can compete with the best clubs despite a clearly inferior squad, he makes players better and, considering the stature of his club, would be much more attainable than the other candidates. What more could United want?
Potter might not be the biggest name but United’s incompetence in recent years means those big names will be hard to catch. But he is still an excellent coach and one United are in no place to turn their nose up at him.