Man Utd's interim manager shortlist: all you need to know about the men in the frame

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Man Utd's interim manager shortlist: all you need to know about the men in the frame
Man Utd's interim manager shortlist: all you need to know about the men in the frame

After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are looking to appoint an interim manager to take the club through until the end of the season. Telegraph Sport takes an in-depth look at the footballing backgrounds of four men on United's shortlist to see what they would bring to Old Trafford if appointed as a short-term fix.

Ralf Rangnick

Has forged a reputation as one of the most innovative football brains in Europe and has overseen the construction of teams and infrastructure at newly wealthy clubs like Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

At the age of 63, his CV is undoubtedly impressive enough to make him of interest to Manchester United, but rather than trophies won, it is the way he has altered the philosophies and ideas of a generation of younger coaches in Germany, Austria and beyond.

He was at the vanguard of the so-called Gegenpressing revolution, the Germanic phrase for counter pressing adopted by so many of the country’s most famous coaches. The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel are some of his many disciples. Klopp has previously described him as the “best German coach" still within the game.

There is no doubt that Rangnick was a visionary, setting many of the trends in the Bundesliga that are now widely adopted in mainstream football fashion across Europe.

Having started his coaching career when he was just 25 years old, getting his first break at Ulm 1846 in Germany lower leagues. He is not afraid to be different, and was initially dismissed as an oddball, dubbed German’s professor in an attempt to mock his university lecturer appearance.

The mocking stopped when he won promotion with Hannover and only narrowly missed out on winning the Bundesliga with Schalke in 2005. Backed by wealthy owners at Hoffenheim, he guided the little known regional club from the third tier into the top flight before returning to Schalke where he won a German cup.

However, his time in the dugout has been limited since 2011 as he took up a sporting directors role at Leipzig, overseeing the club’s rise from fourth tier to European power.

He has only worked as a manager on an interim basis since, the most recent period coming in 2018/19. The guru of modern German football is currently in a very well paid job as a director of football at Lokomotiv Moscow, but could be tempted by a short term contract to manage again at Old Trafford. Perhaps he will stick around to become sporting director after that.

Rudi Garcia

The 57-year-old is one of France’s most respected and admired footballing brains, a reputation forged when he won the league title with Lille in 2011 before Qatar radically altered the egalitarian nature of Ligue 1 by buying Paris Saint-Germain.

That has not stopped him having more success in his homeland. He took Marseille to the final of the Europa League in 2018 and managed to keep Lyon competitive in both domestic and European competitions despite the huge wealth gap with PSG.

In France, Garcia was propelled to national attention when he was one of the most outspoken critics of the attack on liberty and freedom, he insisted, the terrorist attack in Paris represented in 2015.

Outside of France, there is less to impress the Manchester United hierarchy, although there were three solid years with Roma in Italy. He returned the club to the Champions League in his first season, but could not overcome Juventus' stranglehold on Serie A and things eventually turned sour.

The fact he has spent so little time outside of France will be of some concern and he has only won one major trophy in a long career in the dugout. It is likely Garcia will be interested in the interim role at Old Trafford as a means to advertise himself to English football.

Do well on a short-term contract with Manchester United and other job offers from Premier League clubs will almost certainly follow. Look what happened to Marco Silva after he almost pulled off the most unlikely relegation escape act with Hull City back in 2017. Relatively unknown outside of Portugal, Silva has since managed Watford and Everton in the Premier League and is currently in charge at Fulham, all on the back of the excellent work he did over six months at Hull.

Garcia is also out of work, having left Lyon in the summer at the end of a disappointing season. He has been waiting for the right opportunity but has not been drawn on speculation linking him with a move to Manchester, telling Canal Plus “I am not used to commenting on rumours in my career. I will say nothing on the subject. I neither confirm nor deny.”

Ernesto Valverde

How long out of work is too long out of work? It is a question that plays on the minds of all unemployed managers, those temporarily unattached souls who are just waiting for the right moment to step back into the game.

For Ernesto Valverde, that wait has been long. The Spaniard has not sat in a dugout since he was sacked by Barcelona all the way back in January 2020, and when it comes to his suitability for the United job it should also be noted that he has never experienced English football.

If those two factors are reasons for concern, then there are also plenty of arguments in Valverde’s favour. At Barcelona he managed some of the biggest names in the world of sport, and he led the team to two league titles and a Copa del Rey in his three years at the club. Barcelona were top of the league when he was sacked, and have not won it since.

A former player with Barcelona, Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao and others, Valverde has extensive coaching experience in Spain. He has managed Athletic, Espanyol, Villarreal and Barcelona, as well as two enjoying two separate spells with Olympiacos in Greece (where he won three Greek titles and the Greek Cup).

The view in Spain is that Valverde could be perfectly suited to a short-term role, as someone who is capable of organising a side and controlling big personalities (if he does arrive at United, it would mean he has had the chance to manage both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo).

He would also be an interesting character to add to the Premier League soap opera: he is a passionate photographer, and even opened his own exhibition earlier this year.

Valverde’s spell at Barcelona was not regarded as a resounding success but it certainly looks better in hindsight, given their struggles following his departure. He would arrive with a genuine authority and a considerable level of expertise.

Lucien Favre

Were it not for Lucien Favre’s sudden change of heart this summer, he would already be a Premier League manager. The Swiss coach had the chance to take over at Crystal Palace before the start of the season, and had looked set for the job after a series of productive talks.

Instead, however, he decided to take a break from it all. Other clubs were interested in the 64-year-old but he preferred to step back from the demands of the game. His last job was with Borussia Dortmund, where he worked from July 2018 until his sacking in December 2020.

It is worth noting that United winger Jadon Sancho produced some of his best football under the management of Favre in Germany, and that the Swiss plays an attacking style which should fit nicely with United’s traditions and the demands of their supporters.

There is no question, though, that this would be a significant step up for Favre, who has previously managed the likes of Hertha BSC, Borussia Monchengladbach and Nice.

A club of United’s scale is a different beast altogether, with different challenges and a markedly different profile of player in the first-team squad. How would he fare with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba? How would he cope with the rigours of English football, which he has never previously sampled?

“My players have to be ready to suffer in training,” Favre once said. Such an approach would be welcomed by many at United, and certainly would be applauded by supporters who have been dismayed by a recent lack of visible effort from the team.

It will be a source of encouragement for United that Favre proved himself to be a man-manager capable of taming the notoriously difficult Mario Balotelli. The striker enjoyed two superb seasons with Favre at Nice, scoring 33 goals in 51 league games from 2016 to 2018.

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