One of the more fascinating aspects of the Premier League has, for me, always been the rapid turnaround in managers. And I think it’s no coincidence that each of the top six, Chelsea excluded, have kept faith with the same man for a number of years. And even that stat tells its own story, with Chelsea failing to push Manchester United close in any of the last three title races.
However, both United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger of Arsenal are, to put it bluntly, getting on a bit in years. So it’s only a matter of time until both clubs are looking for new men to lead them forward. Of course, Fergie has threatened to retire before and carried on, so it could be a year or ten years until Old Trafford has a new gaffer.
But today Jose Mourinho, foe of Ferguson and self-proclaimed Special One, has claimed that he’d like to take the reins when Ferguson steps aside. It’s an interesting development. Mourinho has immediately been installed by SkyBet as the favourite at 4/1, although there are a string of former United men also in the running, including Steve Bruce (9/1), Mark Hughes (11/1), Carlos Quieroz (15/1), bizarrely, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (26/1), Roy Keane at the same price, and outsiders Bryan Robson (200/1), Eric Cantona (100/1) and Paul Ince (50/1).
Mourinho was speaking after pulling off the transfer deal of the century, getting rid of temperamental Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in exchange for the brilliant Samuel Eto’o, the technically gifted but injury prone Aleksandr Hleb on a season’s loan, and around £40m in cash. His Inter team now look like serious contenders for next season’s Champions’ League competition.
But you sense after the unsavoury end to his Chelsea stint, Mourinho feels he has unfinished business in the Premier League. The Blues dumped him after his relationship with Roman Abramovic turned sour, and since then the Stamford Bridge club have gone through four managers – Avram Grant, Luis Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and the current incumbent, Carlo Ancelotti.
United and the Special One would be an exciting proposition. Mourinho’s Chelsea were functional but rarely exciting, whereas you sense at a club as prestigious as United, he would feel pressure to entertain as well as to secure results.
But it is questionable whether or not United’s fans would clasp him to their collective bosom: indeed, post-Ferguson it will take some getting used to for the Old Trafford fans whoever takes over.
Martin O’Neill was enjoying a highly successful spell with Celtic at the time that Ferguson was threatening to retire, and he was widely expected to be the man United would’ve have turned to. And since then he has enhanced his reputation further by reinvigorating Aston Villa, leading them in to Europe and to the brink of breaking into the top four. His name is sure to be one that is in the running when the time comes.
Ferguson will celebrate his 70th birthday at the end of 2011, midway through his 25th year in charge of Manchester United. Could he be tempted to call it a day at the end of that campaign, and lead Great Britain’s football team to glory at the London Olympics the following summer?