assistant trainer Jose Mourinho (L),Coach Louis van Gaal (R) of Barcelona during the season 1997/1998 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
This past week has seen constant speculation about the future of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United manager and I have to say it’s brought out the worst of British football in my eyes.
There has been non-stop speculation about the future of a few coaches – I’m sure you need to introduction to the identities of the men I’m talking about – and it seemed that it was either only a matter of time, or one domino falling, to start a chain reaction.
That domino was Jose Mourinho who was sacked from his job at Chelsea, though I can’t say that I think he’s particularly unhappy about it. Forget the reported £40m payout, there was a guy who gave off the impression of being uninterested in the job he was doing. He was never going to walk when there was such a hefty compensation payout waiting for him but he made his own position untenable by the things he was saying and the things he was doing.
Part of me thinks he was doing that intentionally to put the pressure on the Chelsea owner at a time when he saw that Louis van Gaal’s own future at Manchester United was in doubt. Put aside my concern about the Dutchman at Old Trafford, I think it’s absolutely disgusting to see managers do this to their peers – especially when you consider the pair once worked together in Barcelona. And now Jorge Mendes is coming out adding fuel to the fire.
It looked for all the world that Van Gaal would be sacked before the Stoke game, and then it was reported that he only had the Stoke and Chelsea games to turn it around. Make no mistake, Van Gaal has looked like a man showing signs of the pressure he is obviously under, but his reaction has been somewhat understandable when you look at the nonsense that has been written.
So, the press don’t appear to have a clue what’s going on, but can you blame them when they are being cajoled into this by the likes of Pep Guardiola; Guardiola, at a club that is just as much an institution in Germany as Manchester United are in England, has told Bayern Munich he’s leaving at the end of the season. How’s that for stability? Undermining his own work and doing it at a crucial point. You think that’s bad, then think about the obvious consequence – he will be linked with all the top jobs, even though his destination seems to be Manchester City. What an absolute disgrace that is for Manuel Pellegrini, who now has to work under contract with one of football’s worst secrets hanging over him, and pretend like it doesn’t exist.
At Manchester United it’s already seeming as if people are talking about the next man in charge and it’s the usual suspects. Mourinho’s conduct at Chelsea this season underlines why I didn’t want him when he was available in 2013 and I still don’t want him now. So, who else is there?
Well, the most popular answer I seem to be hearing is Ryan Giggs. He has no experience and seems to be named purely because of how much he apparently loves the club. Well, so do I! I said on the RetroUnited.com podcast recently that if the board take that action then they would do worse than appointing someone like Roy Keane to help with the discipline and leadership that clearly seems to be lacking in the United dressing room. If you can’t find leaders, you can create them, and who better than Roy Keane? Yes, it’s a controversial suggestion, but if you are putting Giggs forward then I think it’s a logical thing to add.
In all of this I find it difficult to comprehend that there are only a few names being mentioned. It’s disturbing just how much everyone has been salivating over Mourinho – look at what he did at Chelsea. They are in a right mess. But because he’s the only ‘big’ name apparently left available out there. You might find that if Mourinho’s the only choice then Ed Woodward might be telling the Glazer’s that it’s better the devil you know.
Maybe the experience of hiring David Moyes has put off United going after someone who has worked their way up through the ranks but look at Mark Hughes’ work at Chelsea. Here is a man who probably has now earned the right at a big job – no disrespect to Stoke – but he won’t because the tendency is to go for a supposed big name and a foreign one.
I look at Steve Bruce who is doing a capable job at Hull City; yes, they have been relegated, but they are looking as if they might come straight back up. In such a difficult league as the Championship, I believe that’s a testament to Bruce’s ability which is sometimes under-rated. And even Glenn Hoddle, a visionary of the game who has been out of a managerial job for far too long.
And yet when a good job comes up, ie the Aston Villa position, then who gets hired?
Remi Garde! A man who, with all due respect, made little impression at Arsenal as a player and hasn’t made any notable impression as a manager. Tim Sherwood may not be a man universally loved in the press but it seems like that was his biggest crime; the Aston Villa job looks a very difficult one and before long they’ll be getting rid of Garde because everyone can see that what is happening at Villa Park.
Villa were quick to pull the trigger and fall into the same trap we’ve seen other clubs suffer. I don’t feel sorry for the owners but I do for the fans who don’t deserve this short term chase of pounds that is severely damaging the long term stability of these once-great clubs of ours.
It’s going to take a change in how football clubs are run at boardroom level but how likely is that when the people getting involved these days have no history or knowledge of the game?