By Owolabi Abiola/First Zeal Media
Uncertainty hangs in the air at Old Trafford after a stuttering start to the Premier League season
It is known as third season syndrome and has become synonymous with Jose Mourinho.
The Manchester United manager has stayed in charge at a club for longer than three seasons only once – that was his first stint at Chelsea and even then he departed in September.
At Porto he lasted three seasons, Inter Milan two, Real Madrid three and his second spell at Chelsea ended during the third campaign. And now major questions are being asked about his future at Old Trafford. A summer of transfer discontent preceded a dreadful defeat at Brighton in their second Premier League fixture of the season.
His expensively assembled squad is considered way behind the quality and effectiveness of rivals Manchester City, while his relationship with players such as Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial have appeared strained.
Then there’s the reported complications with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Mourinho’s contract runs until 2020, but should United lose to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night the feeling that he won’t make it that far will be stronger than ever.
The Contenders –
1. The obvious candidate to replace Mourinho is Zinedine Zidane given that he’s currently without a job and has an extraordinary CV which includes three Champions League titles in a row. A beautiful player full of grace, he could return the free-flowing style that United fans crave and should have no trouble dealing with big egos after managing Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
2. Like Zidane, Conte is unemployed at present, having left Chelsea during the summer. He’s a serial winner – he won three Serie A titles with Juventus and the Premier League during his stint in London so fits the bill in that respect. But would he be too similar to Mourinho with his penchant for falling out with players and touchline drama?
3. Knowing the difficulty clubs have in prising away Tottenham’s players, could you imagine the struggle to get manager Mauricio Pochettino. You’d think chairman Daniel Levy would literally chain himself to ‘Poch’. Regarded as the brightest managerial talent in the Premier League along with Pep Guardiola, he may prefer a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid when his time is up at Spurs but United will likely come calling should Mourinho go.
4. Now Wales manager, if United really wanted him you’d imagine Ryan Giggs would step aside to take the reins at Old Trafford where he has already been caretaker manager and assistant manager. At some point United may try a younger, untested boss and Giggs would be welcomed by fans.
5. Laurent Blanc won a bundle of trophies as Paris Saint-Germain manager, and also has a Premier League title to his name – as a player for Manchester United in 2002-03. He’s also out of a job and has been linked with the Old Trafford hotseat at various times in the past. Could get the best out of fellow Frenchman Paul Pogba.
6. Arsene Wenger – an impossible appointment? What about on a short-term basis while United searched for a long-term replacement for Mourinho should he walk away in a flash? Wenger may have had some epic battles against United over the years but he knows all about the club, its players and its heritage, plus he’s out of a job after leaving Arsenal.