Rudi Garcia has been interviewed by Manchester United for the position of interim manager, The National can reveal. The French coach, 57, coached the Lyon team that knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League in 2020 and led Lille to their first trophy in 50 years in 2011, a league-and-cup double helped by bringing in 17-year-old Eden Hazard.
Garcia has a good record of doing well at clubs which aren’t. Lyon were 14th when he took charge before taking them to a French Cup final and Champions League semi-final, knocking out Juventus as well as City. He did this using young players, while helping develop Memphis Depay. Pep Guardiola was criticised for changing City’s tactics to play Lyon.
Roma were finishing between seventh and ninth before he took them to second in Serie A twice in a row behind a Juventus team who were unstoppable in Italy, winning manager of the year in that country. In Rome, where he replaced Luis Enrique, he was told the big-name stars would be a problem there, yet Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi became his best players.
Speaking French, English, Spanish and Italian helped him get close to a multi-national dressing room. Marseille were 15th and he took them up the table and into the Europa League final. He’s never managed in England but considers it to be the home of football.
Garcia spoke to United ahead of their 2-0 victory in Villarreal which saw the club progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Darren Fletcher and John Murtough, two football men, are charged with making a football decision. Ernesto Valverde, the former Athletic, Espanyol and Barcelona coach who won the league with the Catalans in 2018 and 2019, has also interviewed for the role. Valverde was dismissed by Barca in January 2020.
Michael Carrick took charge of the team in Villarreal and was serenaded by the travelling away supporters after the victory. He is usually a coach at the club and willing to do whatever is best for Manchester United.
United have been strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino for the position of permanent manager, the Argentine having impressed in England where he led Tottenham to a Champions League final.
Villarreal v Man United ratings
Garcia’s teams play dynamic, attacking football. A three-time French manager of the year, Garcia is a fighter, a charismatic leader who knows how to make the best of his players – reaching top competition finals with squads nowhere near the best in Europe showed his talent. He’s good at developing young talents: Hazard, Lucas Digne and Gervinho at Lille, Alessandro Florenzi and Kostas Manolas at Roma, Camara in Marseille, Maxence Caqueret, Maxwell Cornet and Houssem Aouar at Lyon. His three central midfielders against City were aged 20, 21 and 22. Lyon’s inexperience told in the semi-final against Bayern Munich when they missed two one-on-one chances before going out to the eventual winners.
Garcia can be passionate and outspoken. He talks of freedom of expression, even if he is a victim of that from what journalists write. But following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, Garcia bought pencils and put them on the seats of the journalists before they arrived for their next press conference.
“Freedom of expression is important,” he said, “the liberty of expression is important.”
Laurent Blanc, another linked to the United role, was the favourite for the Lyon job when Garcia was interviewed for the position, yet Garcia showed his detailed knowledge of the squad and his plans for them which including promoting youth. Garcia got the job, but aware of the negativity around his appointment, Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas faced the media with his new manager.
“I want to start with a quote from Winston Churchill,” he said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist, which is us, sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
Manchester United might need the same approach now.