The 7 Main Contenders to Take Over Manchester United & How Likely They Are to Get the Job

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prepares to face Mauricio Pochettino this weekend when Manchester United travel to Tottenham, but as two of the outright favourites to be the next permanent gaffer at Old Trafford, they could have a very different battle to fight with one another in the summer.

It’s a chance, though, to get a very precarious indication as to what way United might swing. If Solskjaer’s side get the win over Pochettino’s men, does the Norwegian become the favourite for the hot-seat on a permanent basis? Is it Poch’s to lose nonetheless? Or is it likely to go to someone else regardless of what happens, rendering the debate embarrassingly pointless?

Here’s 90min’s guide to the seven realistic contenders to take over at this stage, and a look at how likely they are to happen. 

We’ve even asked a United fan – 90min’s own Scott Saunders – for his perspective on each candidate.

7. Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte

Why it Could Happen

He’s the one man on the list who has actually won the Premier League, for one. Since taking over Juventus in 2011, in fact, Conte has won six major trophies in seven years. If United want a man who will get them back to winning ways by any means necessary, then there are few better picks than Conte. 

Why it Might Not Happen

Everything else, really. Given the way he left Chelsea, it would seem like something of an unambitious appointment, not to mention the fact that United have outlined their desire for a manager who will play attacking football and develop youth players – hardly trademarks of his management to date. 

How Likely Is it to Happen?

See above. He doesn’t really fit any of the criteria United have outlined in their search for a new boss, so it hardly reflects well on the board if it ends up going to him. The symbolism of it going to a negative former Chelsea boss, who had been sacked not long before, isn’t likely to be lost on them either. 


What Do the Fans Think?

“It’s a no from me. Don’t want another Chelsea reject, he’s a poor man’s Mourinho and plays sh**e football to boot. Plus, fans won’t accept another manager who doesn’t attack.”

6. Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe

Why it Could Happen

Howe has been one of the most consistent managers in English football in recent years, transforming Bournemouth from League One strugglers into the comfortably established Premier League side they are today – albeit with a short hiatus to take over at Burnley in between.

He’s a relatively cheap option, he knows the league well, and he has the charisma and charm to get the fans onside. He’s also young enough at 41 that, if United got it right, he could be the face of the club for years to come.

Why it Might Not Happen

Although Howe is one of the most exciting young managers in English football, the jump from Bournemouth to United is still a seismic shift that he may not be ready for yet. 

It’s also likely that United will want a really big name, and Howe isn’t that.

How Likely Is it to Happen?

It’s easy to forget but Howe has only been in the league for a couple of years, and is very much still learning. That being the case, it’s not hugely likely that he’ll even want the United job – let along be offered it. 


What Do the Fans Think?

“Nowhere near ready. He should go to Spurs if Pochettino goes, or something.”

5. Laurent Blanc

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Why it Could Happen

Blanc has experience of managing at virtually every level of football, and it could be said that he’s one of the main reasons PSG are the domestic force they are at the minute, after he inherited, and elevated, the side Carlo Ancelotti left behind. He’s a free agent at present, and could be keen on a return to management after a couple of years out. 

Why it Might Not Happen

Although he’s a legendary name in French football, the break Blanc has taken from football since leaving PSG will stand at three years by the time United are looking to make an appointment, and ring-rust is hardly an attractive trait for a club in their position. 

He was also let go by PSG for failing to take them to the next level in Europe – something that will be ringing mild alarm bells at United.

How Likely Is it to Happen?

Not very, really. He’s just linked because he’s a high profile name who is out of work, and played at United for a while. He’s never managed outside of France and it doesn’t seem like United are going to be his first venture – not to jinx it or anything. 


What Do the Fans Think?

“Underwhelming & uninspiring. Don’t think it’s likely as if they’d have wanted him, they’d have approached him already.”

4. Massimilliano Allegri

Massimiliano Allegri

Why it Could Happen

He’s won everything domestically – and consistently at that – with Juventus, so United could be keen to bring a bit of that ruthless dominance to Old Trafford if they decide against the more obvious targets. The only thing he hasn’t won with Juventus is the Champions League, so he could well be looking for a new challenge in the summer should he add the final piece of the puzzle to his trophy cabinet. 

Why it Might Not Happen

Any number of reasons, really. Unlike Spurs, Juventus can rival United in terms of their finances and prowess within the footballing world, and you definitely couldn’t argue heading to Manchester is a step up from the Old Lady. He might not want the job either – it probably wouldn’t be the first time he’s knocked back an approach from a Premier League club. 

How Likely Is it to Happen?

Not massively unlikely, but it’s one of the outside shots. While it might well depend on how Juventus get on in Europe this season, it could well end up that he doesn’t fancy it either way. 


What Do the Fans Think?

“An interesting one, but would prefer not. I’m not sure about his exact style of play, and I’m unsure if he’ll even leave Juventus anyway.”

3. Zinedine Zidane

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Why it Could Happen

Zidane has taken a break from management since leaving Real Madrid in the summer, and is thought to be picky about his potential return. He won’t get many more high profile or exciting options than United, and as a free agent, they’d face no resistance in approaching him, unless he makes a surprise return to management elsewhere before the end of the season.

As far as his CV goes, he’s about as big a name as you’ll find in management, and three successive Champions League trophies make him a tantalising option. 

Why it Might Not Happen

Although he did a great job in Europe with Real Madrid, his domestic record did leave a lot to be desired at times. He’s also only managed for about three years, so United might decide to look for a more experienced, proven option. 

How Likely Is it to Happen?

It wouldn’t come as a surprise. If they don’t appoint Poch, whether through choice or being told where to go by Spurs, you would suspect Zidane would be one of the next ports of call. 


What Do the Fans Think?

“Zidane is a massive name, he would get the players on side, but have big reservations over his ability tactically. 

“He’d let the players play and play some good football perhaps, but the team isn’t experienced enough to ‘just have the shackles off’ long term like Real Madrid were. They need more guidance and to be brought into line. 

“Also screams of the ‘commercial option’ – which is not the right thing to consider at this time.”

2. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Why it Could Happen

He’s already a fan favourite, and he’s had the best possible start to his career, with five wins from his first five games. He’s an outside bet, but if he can keep their domestic form up consistently and carry it over into Europe, then he surely has to come into consideration.

Why it Might Not Happen

The drawbacks with Solskjaer are obvious. While he’s started well, he has almost no experience of managing at a level anything close to what he’d be expected to at United, having only managed Cardiff and Molde so far. It’s impossible to tell how he’ll fair when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will at some stage. Until he proves he can manage that, United will have understandable reservations around him as a future permanent boss.

How Likely Is it to Happen?

On paper he’s second favourite at present, but it really depends how United get on between now and May. Top four and, say, a Champions League semi, and he has a chance. Anything substantially less and it seems highly unlikely.


What Do the Fans Think?

“Ole would have to basically perform miracles for me to be convinced – win the Champions League and get top four, for example. But even then I wouldn’t be sure. Again, I have reservations tactically – he’s yet to prove himself at this level. He’s spent time at Molde and Cardiff for a reason, as harsh as it sounds. 

“Plus, there’s that thing where interims do well then suck when they get the job permanently, when the pressure’s on. See Di Matteo at Chelsea.”

1. Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino

Why it Could Happen

Spurs fans are probably right to feel aggrieved at their manager being talked up as the favourite to take over a team three places below them in the league, but the facts are the facts. Let’s not pretend like Manchester United don’t have a historic appeal to them that Tottenham simply don’t possess. Let’s not pretend that United will actually give the man a ridiculous transfer budget.

It’s obvious Poch could be tempted to take over a club with the ambition, potential and standing of United, particularly after five trophy-less, if successful, years at Tottenham. 

Why it Might Not Happen

Firstly, while we can speculate about what Poch might be thinking privately about the United gig, you can’t ignore the fact that he’s said publicly that he’s with Spurs for the long run. He’s a professional, and you have to think that if the club decide to make a potential appointment difficult for United, he doesn’t seem like the type to kick up a fuss.

How Likely is It to Happen?

At this stage, it looks pretty likely, in fairness. United will have to fight tooth and nail to make it happen, but they don’t normally stick if they want someone, and it seems like the next natural step in his career. 

What Do the Fans Think?

“Right call for me. His trophy record is a concern, but he has a proven track record of improving teams in the Premier League. 

“He works with young players, is a big enough name, and is the logical step up for him. He will have actual money to spend to get him to the next level in a quicker time. Whether he wants it or not is another matter, but he’s certainly thinking about it.”

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