The lines are open, the speculation has begun — who will, who can, replace Alex Ferguson, 71, who announced his retirement Wednesday as the manager of Manchester United. As Capt. Louis Renault said in “Casablanca,” “Round up the usual suspects.”
José Mourinho Perhaps the only way to replace one of the most special managers in the history of soccer is with the Special One. Mourinho is clearly on the outs at Real Madrid and has made no secret he is looking elsewhere. The mercurial but successful Portuguese has won European titles with two teams (Porto and Inter) in two countries (Portugal and Italy) while also taking Chelsea to the top of the English game. Mourinho and Ferguson have made no secret of their mutual admiration society. Mourinho would love to return to England, and what better way to tweak the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich than landing at Old Trafford?
David Moyes Trade one Scotsman for another? Hmm. Certainly sounds possible, and reports in the British news media Wednesday said that the Red Devils’ brain trust was poised to name Moyes as Ferguson’s replacement. Moyes, 50, has been in charge at nearby Everton in Liverpool since 2002. He has built a solid foundation with young players bubbling up through the system, and his contract with the Toffees runs out after the season. Major downside: limited experience with his team in European competitions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer The striker from Norway has the Manchester United pedigree, having played for the club for 11 years before running the reserve team for three years. He is currently the manager at Molde in his native land, having led that club to its first league title. When reports surfaced last year that he might be tempted to return to England with Aston Villa, fan reaction in Norway went off the charts and Solskjaer stayed … for now. Oh, and don’t forget he holds a special place in the Manchester United pantheon … he is the hero of the 1999 Champions League final.
Pep Guardiola Wait, didn’t the Spaniard commit to becoming the coach of Bayern Munich next season? Did the former Barcelona maestro make a hasty move? Guardiola was in New York brushing up on his English-language skills. Wonder how his German is coming along? Could he pull a Bill Belichick, who bolted the Jets for the Patriots (the rest is history).
Jürgen Klopp The bespectacled German who looks as if he could play a role in “Mad Men” is nearly halfway to Manchester, taking Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final against Bayern Munich … at London’s Wembley Stadium on May 25. He took Dortmund to consecutive Bundesliga titles before being dethroned by Bayern, but his teams have played an attractive, skillful and attacking style. There have been a lot of continental influences on the English game — Scottish, of course, French (see Arsenal), Italian and Portuguese — but little of the Germanic nature. The Bundesliga is the flavor of the month. Just sayin’.
Honorable mention Harry Redknapp, he is always out there, somewhere; Carlos Quieroz, Ferguson’s longtime assistant who has bounced around the globe; Brendan Rodgers, one season at Liverpool does not a savior make; Roberto Martinez, went up with Swansea, now down with Wigan, but always in the conversation; Bruce Arena, just kidding.
Who do you think should be the next manager of Manchester United?