Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leaves Manchester United: Zidane and five potential replacements

Solskjaer is expected to leave Old Trafford imminently, with the club seventh in the Premier League table

One of the most coveted roles in football management has become available after Manchester United confirmed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure on Sunday.

The speculation now turns to who will be the next coach in the Old Trafford dugout. Whoever that man could be, he will be tasked with turning around a faltering season after five defeats in the last seven matches leaves United 12 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Here is a look at the five leading contenders.

Zinedine Zidane

Based on widespread reports, the former Real Madrid manager is the preferred choice of the United board to succeed Solskjaer.

Zidane's managerial experience is limited to two spells at Real Madrid, but those were extremely successful spells. First taking charge in January 2016, following a stint as head coach of Real Madrid's Castilla, Zidane led the club to the Champions League title later that year and became the only coach to win the tournament three times in a row. The Frenchman also guided Madrid to the Spanish league title in 2017.

After leaving at the end of the 2018 season, the Frenchman returned to the Bernabeu in March 2019 and secured La Liga again the following season. Zidane again decided to walk away in May earlier this year.

The 49-year-old Frenchman, one of the finest midfielders in history, would appear to tick plenty of boxes for the United board. His standing in the game, both as player and coach, will command the respect of the players and he has proven experience working with big players and big personalities.

Indeed, he has already worked with two of United's most senior players and a move to Old Trafford would see him reunited with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Valencia vs Real Madrid - Mestalla, Valencia, Spain - January 27, 2018   Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane    REUTERS/Heino Kalis

Brendan Rodgers

The Leicester City manager appears to be high on the list of contenders, despite his current rough patch and his Liverpool past.

Rodgers, 48, has been a revelation at Leicester in his two-and-a-half seasons in charge, leading the Foxes to back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup last season.

The Northern Irishman also fared quite well at Liverpool where he led a thrilling title-chasing campaign in 2013/14, only to fall just short of Manchester City. His spell at Anfield ended as results began to drop, and he returned to management with Celtic, winning all available trophies until his switch to Leicester.

Rodgers' attacking, possession-based approach should appeal to the United board, and he is known to be an exceptional man manager. However, could Leicester's current rut - the Foxes are 12th in the Premier League table - count against him?

Erik ten Hag

Another managerial vacancy, another place on the list for Ajax's Ten Hag. The Dutchman has been linked to Barcelona and Tottenham in recent weeks, and is now linked to the United role.

Ten Hag, 51, has been a huge success since arriving at the Amsterdam giants in 2017, winning two Dutch league titles - and he would likely have won a third if the 2019/20 season hadn't been voided - and two KNVB Cups.

He and his team really caught the football world's attention, though, in the 2018/19 Champions League, where they reached the semi-finals playing exhilarating football.

Ten Hag's attention to tactical detail should work in his favour as United seek a manager they hope can go up against the likes of Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel, and Jurgen Klopp. However, given the club's current struggles, his lack of experience with a top club in a top-tier league could deem Ten Hag a risk.

Mauricio Pochettino

Many United fans were screaming for Pochettino to get the job when Jose Mourinho left in December 2018. At the time, the Argentine was in charge at Tottenham and would go on to lead the London club to the Champions League final later that season.

Could it be too late for United to make their move? Pochettino is now at Paris Saint-Germain and looks well on course for his first league title as a manager (PSG lead Ligue 1 by 12 points). While the managerial position at PSG can be precarious, it would seem unlikely that Pochettino would be keen to trade in his lot in Paris to take on the many challenges he would face in Manchester.

That being said, United might just be tempted to make an approach to gauge Pochettino's interest.

Darren Fletcher

The man expected to take caretaker charge while United seek their next permanent manager, there is always a chance an interim is given the full-time position ... just ask Solskjaer.

Like his former United teammate, Fletcher is well-regarded at Old Trafford and was appointed the club's first technical director in March. The former midfielder, 37, has previously expressed his desire to enter management.

An unlikely long-term successor to Solskjaer, although Fletcher could put his case forward during his time in the dugout.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 11:04 AM
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