Just under a year ago on this very site, I wrote an article advocating Pep Guardiola as the man to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson when the great man finally decided to hang up his £19.99 Nike trainers. At the time the idea of the uber successful well dressed Catalan leaving the darlings of European football seemed about as likely as Roberto Di Matteo masterminding a victory over them in the Champions League semi-final.
Fast forward eleven months and there’s suddenly a different outlook on the Spanish horizon, as Guardiola embarks on the final weeks of his first unsuccessful season in charge of Barcelona, in his fourth year as manager of the first team. Yes there have been triumphs, World Club Championships and European Super Cups and what have you, but make no mistake, seeing his side crash out of the Champions League only days after Real Madrid all but guaranteed the La Liga title will be back at the Bernabeu, is nothing short of a disaster.
Guardiola isn’t in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, where a good European run and a top two finish would be seen as cause for an open top bus, he’s in charge of a club where even delivering the league can be seen as a something of a disappointment if you’ve not won the Champions league alongside it.
Guardiola’s looked a little out of sorts lately, getting testy with journalists, rumours of player rifts and questions surrounding some of his tactics. He’s gone from the man who could do no wrong to someone who’s perceived as struggling to get anything right in the space of about four days.
Guardiola hasn’t suddenly become a bad manager, he’s just entered a time that happens to all top coaches and teams, the infamous ‘fourth season’ where some players need more motivation, or focus, opposition sides finally work out ways to counteract your tactics and the expectations of the fans and media reach near-ludicrous levels.
There’s been a lot of speculation that Guardiola would leave at the end of this season, helped in no small measure by the rolling one year contract he’s on and his reluctance to commit to anything resembling long-term whenever he’s questioned about his future.
Some have suggested that Guardiola actually wants a bit of time off from football, maybe just a season, to recharge his batteries and spend some time embracing the arts and culture he’s so fond of. Don’t forget this is a manager who loves his Opera and theatre- not spending his spare time playing golf or watching the Red Lion vs the Swinging Sporran on Kingsway Park.
At United however, there’s no sign that this season will be Sir Alex’s last, even if he does win an unprecedented 16th league title as a manager there’s unfinished business in Europe and I’d be surprised if Fergie didn’t want at least one final crack at the Champions league.
There’s also the ‘Noisy Neighbours’- if City do win the title then there’s no way on God’s earth Ferguson will then walk away from the game and if they don’t, then there’s still the aforementioned European adventure to be had- especially after this season’s failings.
This is why Guardiola coming to United next season makes sense to me, not as manager but as Sir Alex’s assistant- sounds crazy? After all why would Guardiola leave Barca to come and be an assistant at Old Trafford? Well think about it for a second, if Guardiola did fancy the United job, what better way to learn about the team, the Premier League and even the country by spending one season on the coaching staff? There’d be no pressure, after all if the team fails it’s not going to be Pep’s fault when Sir Alex is in charge, plus it’d give Guardiola the perfect opportunity to truly assess what he had to work with the following season and where we needed strengthening.
Then there’s the mutual benefits, Sir Alex would have another experienced coach to bounce ideas off, particularly when it came to Europe, an area we’ve not looked as assured in since Carlos Queiroz left. Deep down Sir Alex may realise that at the age of 70, he needs to plan for United’s future and what better way then replacing himself with arguably the best coach on the planet, but also allowing himself one final swansong?
Some people will point to Jose Mourinho as Ferguson’s heir apparent, but I’ve always thought of the Special One as someone who despite his entertaining nature- off the pitch- isn’t quite suited to what United stands for. Yes he’s successful, but he’s completely anti-establishment, a Portuguese modern-day Brian Clough, and I’m not so sure he’d be get on with the board members who’d expect a certain amount of compromise and communication from their new manager. The eye-poking, red card receiving, speak out all the time attitude may not sit well with some of the executives.
I know my idea sounds a tad unrealistic, but then again so did the notion of Leeds selling us Eric Cantona, Keith Gillespie being enough to tempt Kevin Keegan to sell us Andy Cole, or more recently bringing back a 37 year-old to save our title bid.
Guardiola could take United to a new level, move us forward with the modern European style of football his Barca team are the greatest exponents of. Now might be the best time to lure him to Old Trafford as if he does stay at Barca he may not have another unsuccessful season for quite some time and when he leaves, he won’t be short of suitors.
Check out Jonathan Wills’s superb look at the ‘three season cycle’ taken from his Guardian blog on the link below
Have I gone completely potty? Are United better of promoting Mickey Phelan? Is there zero chance of getting Pep as manager let alone coach?
Answers on a brick through the usual window please- or alternatively you can comment, suggest and abuse below:
O’Niel to assist Moyes? Who would have thunk that except You
Sorry but for all the pretty football guardiola might play and all the trophies hes won. I wud never want to see him at united. Hes already at a massive club and finding it increasingly difficult to tie down a long contract and be loyal to the club to give it consistency. I wud rather united win.2 trophies in 3 years and have the manager go on for another 10 years rather then.have a manager who will win probly 5 trophies in 3 years and decide hea bored or.not coping and needs a year off or.whatever reason
Why r united so successful and loathes by other teams
Because of fergie. Hes been here for 25 years been.loyal. totally understands the teams hes built the history of the club and wants ro stay at united.for as ong as he can and build teams and win. Not just do it once been 3 – 4 times.
The only man to succed Sir Alex is BRENDAN ROGERS
Look what he has done with an average group of players.. Can you imagine Man Utd’s players playing in that style, with their quality…They would match and beat Barcelona..
Brendan Rogers is young, determined…very much in Jose’ style, but plays amazing football.
We would watch the best football in the world each week..
Regardless if everything that you have said about youth and flair and European knowledge trophies blah blah. I would like to point out to you that at United the most important thing (as we’ve learnt and seen) is longevity and the loyalty of a manager to the club. Pep guardiola for all his beautiful football and Trophies wont want to stay for longer then 4-5 years or even less before he gets bored or wants a rest. Hes at a real big club at Barcelona and has the makings of a fantastic team under his belt but he hasn’t felt the need to commit to Barcelona.
what makes Manchester United who we are is the likes of Alex Ferguson or Sir matt busby. Or Wenger epitomises everything arsenal is or David Moyes epitomizes everything Everton is. Thats what we need at united coz guardiola will come and maybe win lots but hell be gone before we know it . And he’ll be forgotten unless he stays for a long long time and doesnt let man citeh and there money grabbing hores, and anyone for that matter to get CLOSE to united.
P.s i have to say i have been a little too strong maybe, dont take it in the wrong way. not critisizing
I wuld love to see Roberto Martinez or Even Andre Villas Boas, they are two Gr8 coaches
Only Mourino has the gravitas, tactical nous, personality, experience and winners mentality to succeed SAF. You left Barcelona without a coach for an entire season and they would still win trophies. They play the same way from the youth teams up. It’s a system Cruyff introduced in the early 1990s. Pep is still unproven. Mourino has won the European Cup with two different teams. His teams are always in the semis of Europe’s premier competition. He has won the title in four different countries. It’s a no brainer. I would also like to add that since Carlos Queroz left united, we have looked tactically naive. In 2008 we played Barca as Chelsea and Inter Milan played them in the semis. We then reach the finals again in 2009 and 2011 and try to play them at their game. SAF has many qualities but tactical brilliance is not one of them.
What an absolute load of b*##*€¥$ … apologies but come on please get on this planet or send me some of what you are drinking …. Mourinho will take the reins
Keep an eye on Brendan Swansea.
Definately!! Spot on Red Roy….He’s the man for me…watch him speak, how he conducts himself..He i s very strong, intelligent man. I just love his football.
Will be a sad day when Fergie steps down. I might even shed a tear as I reflect on how the great man turned around this club.
If Pep is willing to commit to five years or more after his break, and Fergie decides to step down, then why not? We’d be very lucky and if Pep is looking for long term security it could be a good match.
I also like Brendan Rogers, although the pressure of managing United will be a different kettle of fish to what he’s used to.
Wigan’s Martinez will not be considered but the way he’s shown resilience whilst his team played abysmally earlier in the season demonstrated a lot of character. In time I think he’ll come good – all the positive things we’re seeing at Swansea today started with Martinez. If Wigan go down and he becomes available it might be an idea to appoint him as a No.2 to Fergie.
Whoever replaces Fergie faces an impossible job – and as fans we will have to get used to managers lasting 3-5 years and not 25+ years!