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Chelsea showing how important Manchester United managerial decision is

Premier League leaders Chelsea play host to Manchester United on Sunday afternoon in the big game of the weekend, with more than just three points on the line.

Both sides picked up wins in midweek in the Champions League, with United earning a 2-0 win over Villarreal thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, while Chelsea smashed Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge with Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner on the scoresheet.

But it’s the managerial position at both clubs that is currently in the headline most, and for very different reasons.



It’s a little under a year since Tuchel arrived at Chelsea following his sacking at Paris Saint-Germain, and the turnaround in the club’s fortunes since have been phenomenal.

They became European champions for a second time with a 1-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League final last season, and currently sit top of the Premier League with a three point lead over City and just four goals conceded in 12 games so far.

Tuchel celebrated his 50th game in charge against Juventus and it brought to light an incredible statistic showing just how good he has made his side in a short space of time.

New manager Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea holds up the home Nike Shirt at Stamford Bridge on January 27, 2021 in London, England.

It was his 32nd win as manager, but amazingly it was also the 31st clean sheet he has overseen as boss. In the other 19 games, Chelsea have conceded just 24 goals with five of those coming in that shock defeat to West Brom last season.

He has absolutely maximised the talent in his team and by tweaking his system throughout his time at the club, he has made them look formidable in all aspects of play.

For Manchester United, they need something very similar to happen for them. After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday, they find themselves in a position where the season could still be saved if the right man could be brought in.

Mauricio Pochettino has been linked with the role on a full-time basis, but it seems highly unlikely that he would join before the summer. This has led to the club appointing Ralf Rangnick as their interim coach until the end of the season, before moving into a consultancy role afterwards.

Players of Manchester United celebrate after a goal during UEFA Champions League Group F match between Villarreal and Manchester United at Estadio de...

There were countless names linked to the job, but Rangnick can be seen as the man with a plan so to speak.

He will have the right ideas, right mentality and right character to try and save the season for the club while also laying the foundations for whoever it is the club are planning to bring in on a full-time basis. He just needs to execute now.

The results of what could happen if they get the next decision right will be staring them right in the face on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

Ralf Rangnick: A complete insight into Manchester United’s new interim manager

Football is very simple, players will follow you if they can see you are making them better and my job is to always make a player better.

Well into his 60’s, Ralf Rangnick has been involved in football for decades. He was almost always born to be a manager, from the age of just six years old he was always trying to improve people around him, not only in football but in life.

Rangnick has never had a flashy job, he’s not that spoken about outside of Germany, however his influence on football is one in which goes back a long time and has shaped the modern game today.



Rangnick, like Marcelo Bielsa in many ways, doesn’t do things the way in which normal managers would and he doesn’t look at football like other managers of his generation did.

Also like Bielsa, Rangnick has a slew of managers in the modern game in which he has helped mould and shape. Two of these managers have won the Champions League in the last 3 years playing in a style that has the markings of Rangnick all over it. With front foot, high pressing, high discipline and quick countering styles.

The two managers he has had the biggest influence over are current Liverpool and Chelsea managers Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. However all of Julien Nagelsmann, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Ralph Hasenhuttl have all seen and taken parts of Rangnick’s philosophy over the years, and adopted them into their current set ups.

Klopp has stuck to the absolute conditions of what Ralf would consider a great team, implementing and bringing to the UK the biggest component of a Rangnick team, that of ‘Gegen-pressing’.

Head coach Ralf Rangnick of Schalke and head coach Juergen Klopp of Mainz smile before the Bundesliga match between Schalke 04 and FSV Mainz 05 at...

Gegen-pressing, or counter-pressing, is something that is widely used now in various different versions. Klopp and Pep have their own way of using it, but Klopp has Rangnick’s exact philosophy and set up for it which is smash mouth, in your face and complex press triggers that opponents will struggle to work out.

It’s extremely important to bring up Gegen-pressing as Rangnick is someone seen as the godfather of football in Germany. He ditched the much used ‘sweeper’ system in favour of this more aggressive style, with fast wide players operating high up the pitch, a target man used to cut off passing lanes, high full-backs and a three man midfield that press like crazy.

When you consider that, you can see the Liverpool model. So it’s understandable why people like myself who have watched Rangnick’s teams over the years play a brand of football that to me, is the most beautiful to watch.

So, what we can expect from Rangnick at Manchester United given this team has had many years of poor management and not enough coaching in general?

I can break it down in five things that Ralf speaks about in great length any time anyone asks his philosophy.

1. “What happens if we have the ball? How do we want to play? How do we play against a low block, a high press, a counter attacking team?”

He has meticulous planning for every situation and it will not be left to the players to work out. They will have session, drills, structures and patterns put in place of where they should be and how to deal with situations faced in game. But, importantly, it also will allow for them to have creative freedom in the final third.

This will be nice to hear for United fans who were told just this week by their longest standing player and goalkeeper, “We do not know what we are supposed to do with the ball.”

2. “What do we want to do if the other team has the ball? How do we want to defend that? What kind of game plan, match plan, information do I give my players to deal with this? It’s simple for me, our football is heavy metal, rock and roll, we want the ball back as fast as possible.”

3. “What happens in the moment we lose the ball?
4. “What happens in the moment we win the ball back?

Rangnick had a clock scoreboard added to the RB Leipzig training complex that had a countdown timer of eight seconds.

‘The eight second rule’ is adopted by a lot of top coaches to this day, if you lose the ball anywhere on the pitch, you have 8 seconds of intense press before you revert back to shape.

Head coach Ralf Rangnick is seen training session of German Bundesliga second division team RB Leibzig in Leipzig on July 3, 2015

The press triggers are abandoned at this point and it involves the entire team cutting passing lanes and getting the ball back as fast and as aggressively as possible, allowing for what they call in Germany ‘chance auf Volumen’ a chance of volume or, ‘high volume chance’ a break away and movement that allows for the highest chance of success of a goal.

It is implemented as in those eight seconds, the opponents are disorganised and the player taking it under control doesn’t have the time to control it properly and assess their options when overwhelmed with often three or four vs one, and will either kick it long, or relinquish possession, allowing for quick vertical passes (Rangnick likes this to be under three passes) for a shot at goal.

This exact philosophy and play-style was used during his time with Leipzig in 18/19 and 60% of their goals were scored after they won the ball back in under ten seconds.

5. “The final component is set pieces, 30% of all goals are scored either on or straight after a set piece so, as coaches, you need to be alert to that and as 30% of all goals are scored in this manner, I commit 30% of my training to set pieces.”

Ralf Rangnick is a special kind of coach. He is in the business as he wants to improve players. He also has been in the mind frame for Man United for almost ten years, ever since his Schalke side played Manchester United and despite a heavy defeat, his play-style was admired by many there.

Ralph Rangnick, head coach of Leipzig reacts during the UEFA Europa League Group B match between RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig at on November 29, 2018...

Over the years he has been used for some consultancy work on a wide variety of topics that Man United needed help on, future manager profiles, player profiles, youth team approaches and training approaches.

He has, while minor in the grand scheme of things, been a part of United for many years behind the scenes and he has never hidden his desire to manage United one day.

How will it work at Manchester United with the players we have?

Manchester United, willingly or unwillingly, have actually built a team very close to what Rangnick would like in his own set ups. His age profile is usually 18-24 however, a lot of Manchester United players are in that age bracket or just outside of it and they have pace, one of the key components that you cannot teach.

They may lack the stamina at the start but, this is something that can be taught and coached. Even with Ronaldo, the play-style that Rangnick would implement can be absolutely successful and I will try to explain the core principles of his pressing that a lot of United players will have drilled into them.

I can see Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Donny Van De Beek, Fred and Bruno Fernandes used a lot under him.

When the opponent has the ball I would expect United to adopt a 4-3-3 style formation, with the front 3 pressing up against the opponents box and one of the midfielders standing close to an outlet in the midfield.

The main reason for this is to get the goalkeeper to play the ball out to a centre back, close off the angles and offer up an option around the midfield that can be the trigger to press.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3.png

So, the keeper has the ball, Ronaldo is blocking off the opposing team’s defensive midfielder, Sancho and Rashford have the full-backs covered. They want the keeper to pass it to number 2 or 4 in the image above. So, imagine the ball is passed to number 2 in the image above, what would that change about the shape.

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Ronaldo would push in between the goalkeeper and centre backs, Bruno would take up Ronaldo’s position, Rashford and Sancho would become more aggressive in their press leaving what seems a free, easy pass out.

But, if you look, this is the trigger, now the team is in a lot of danger. Their full-backs are split, their centre backs are split and they are about to get in to a four man press on one player.

At this point, it’s fast, aggressive pressing from Rashford, Fernandes, Van De Beek and Fred, leaving them with this situation.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png

From here, it’s unlikely the player will be able to do anything but lose the ball. All that’s left then is in under two passes Rashford, Fernandes, Fred or Van De Beek get the ball and get it to Ronaldo as fast as possible, giving him a very high volume chance.

From here, Ronaldo would not be required to be sprinting around. He would have Sancho, Rashford, Van De Beek, Fred and Fernandes for that. Ronaldo’s sole job is once the keeper has released the ball to either CB he goes and cuts off the passing lane to him.

He is already very good at this, and while you can say a lot about Ronaldo doesn’t press but, his on pitch positioning when cutting off passing lanes is actually one of the best around at the moment.

You can see these types of patterns in the below video if you watch it all the way through.

The fact Rangnick’s strikers aren’t required to be the main presser is actually a plus side with United having Ronaldo here. It also would not surprise me if he utilised Edinson Cavani as a wide player on some occasions due to his relentlessly high energy and willing pressing.

Should Man United fans be excited?

Absolutely. Anyone that has followed me on social media for the last month or two will know I have been banging the drum for Rangnick for a reason.

He is tactically flexible, playing a 3-4-2-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2-2 system and he will play them at a high proficiency, as he will get time over these seven months on the training pitch to drill this into the players.

But the main reason I advocated for Rangnick is he can shape a club from top to bottom and he loves that responsibility.

If I had to guess going from this appointment, the most likely successor will be Ten Hag in the summer as opposed to Pochettino. Both Ten Hag’s and Rangnick’s philosophies are intertwined. They are a match made in heaven.

Coach Ralf Rangnick of Hoffenheim reacts during the Bundesliga match between FC St. Pauli Hamburg and1899 Hoffenheim at Millerntor Stadium on August...

Over the years, Manchester United have been jumping from one manager to the next with no plan, Rangnick can implement a modern style and a plan for the club over the next five years. United will be fun, exciting, energetic and very difficult for teams to deal with once he does get his messages across.

I don’t think it will happen instantly, however I think there will be a day and night difference between the team we see now who have absolutely zero idea what to be doing on the ball compared to in a few months time where it will be autonomous.

We have all seen that terrific clip of Rangnick explaining that if Pep, Tuchel, Klopp, himself and Hasenhuttl all went to their players at 11pm to say “come downstairs in one hour and we will do 2x 15 minutes 11v11” they would do it automatically. They would make the same movements almost in their sleep as it is in their hearts, their minds, their blood that this is how they play and they will not deter from it.

All I can say is, finally. Manchester United have one of the best Technical Directors around and a man in whom many of the top coaches looked up to and still do, to this day.

Golden Boy award winners – Ranked

It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.

The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.

Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.



Alexandre Pato

The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.

Anderson

If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.

All Golden Boy winners from 2003 and where they are now, including,  Balotelli, Renato Sanches and Haaland – The Sun

Mario Balotelli

The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.

Anthony Martial

The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.

Rafael Van der Vaart

The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.

CM: Sanches on the move; Jorge Mendes' plan with AC Milan

Renato Sanches

The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.

Mario Gotze

There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.

Pedri

2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.

Matthijs De Ligt

The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.

João Félix has already received the Golden Boy Award! - SL Benfica

Joao Felix

Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.

Isco

The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.

Erling Haaland

2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.

Two Liverpool players make shortlist for Golden Boy award - with one former  Reds youngster nominated - Liverpool Echo

Raheem Sterling

The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.

Paul Pogba

Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.

Pin on My Boy

Sergio Aguero

The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.

Wayne Rooney

It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.

GOAL on Twitter: "Lionel Messi winning the European Golden Boy trophy back  in 2005 🏆 https://t.co/Iumxd5UBpi" / Twitter

Lionel Messi

There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.

Liverpool have a Sadio Mane dilemma

Liverpool continued their brilliant start to the season thanks to a 4-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend, with Sadio Mane once again on the scoresheet for the Reds.

It was the winger’s 106th goal in 234 appearances for the club, as he currently takes part in a sixth season with the club since his £30million move from Southampton back in 2016.

But as the Senegalese star enters the final 18 months of his contract, Liverpool are suddenly in a dilemma with one of the key members of their attacking unit.



Since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, only Mohammed Salah has scored more goals for the club than Mane.

His pace, agility, directness, skill, physicality and technique have set him apart as one of the very best wingers in the Premier League and Europe but now at the age of 29 there is a decision to make for both player and club.

Mane is entering the final 18 months of his contract at the club, just like Salah is. Discussions over a new contract are yet to begin and with the club reportedly keen to re-sign Salah too there may be no space for them to sign both.

Reports suggest that the Egyptian wants a big pay-rise and with his importance to the side completely unquestionable, that could affect the budget in a big way.

Mane is unlikely to want to be second fiddle forever, and rightly so. At any other club in the world he would likely be the main man in the attack, with the ability to score 20+ goals per season and assist a huge amount too.

His ability to go in both directions and use both feet, while also being an aerial threat despite his diminutive stature, makes him an absolute nightmare for defenders.

At 29, Mane will be signing the last long-term contract of his career whether it is at Liverpool or not. He’ll want the one last big payday, like anyone else would, while also wanting some sort of assurances of being a key member of the team.

While Liverpool would no doubt be keen to sign Mane to fresh terms, but are they likely to give him the pay-rise and long-term deal he would crave considering everything else happening at the club? Probably not.

So the decision becomes whether they let him run his contract down and lose him for free, or sell him in the summer.

Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-0 during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Liverpool FC and...

Should they choose to sell him, they won’t be short of suitors. Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked to him in the past, while Paris Saint-Germain could potentially be looking to replace Kylian Mbappe in the summer too.

But if they let him go, they will be strengthening a European rival with one of the best players in the world.

The most likely outcome is that they find an agreement to extend his stay for an extra two or three years with a pay-rise that isn’t quite what Mane wanted, but enough to convince him to sign on.

But the club are running out of time to make it all happen, and the longer they wait the more likely an exit becomes.

Gareth Southgate’s new contract is jumping the gun for England

England have announced that manager Gareth Southgate has signed a two-year extension to his contract, taking him through to after Euro 2024.

It had been long expected that a deal would be reached between the parties to extend his tenure as the boss, after first taking charge of the national team back in 2016.

But now after confirming England’s place in the World Cup for 2022 in Qatar, the deal has been confirmed which will see Southgate complete eight years in charge should he finish out the deal.



But while Southgate’s performance as manager has undoubtedly been successful thus far, have they jumped the gun by extending his contract before a major tournament takes place?

England have enjoyed two brilliant tournaments so far under Southgate, reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 before making it all the way to the final of the delayed Euro 2020 earlier this year, losing to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

But despite the good tournaments, performances for the most part have been far from ideal from Southgate’s side.

The manager has constantly been critiqued for his defensive outlook on games despite the abundance of attacking talent he has at his disposal. Regularly fielding a three-at-the-back formation with two defensive midfielders too, it feels like there is a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked by a better coach.

Against the lesser nations, England have no problems whatsoever. They score plenty of goals, create plenty of chances and regularly win the games they’re supposed to win by a decent margin.

But against the top sides, we’ve seen them struggle on several occasions. When it comes to keeping the ball secure against sides full of quality, who know how to press and defend well they often get overrun and that is a coaching issue.

Southgate also has his favourites in the squad, with some getting call-ups regardless of form at club level while others struggle to get a call-up at all irrespective of what they’re doing for their club side.

While you could absolutely make a case for Southgate to get a new contract, giving him a new deal right before a major tournament seems weird.

What happens if England crash out at the group stages? What if England fail to score a single goal? What if England completely under-perform from their pre-tournament expectations?

Gareth Southgate poses in front of the tunnel as he is unveiled as the new England manager at Wembley Stadium on December 1, 2016 in London, England.

While the intentions are pure and from a good place, it just seems rushed. Southgate is very happy in the job and has intention of going anywhere else right now, and nobody else wants him currently.

England should probably have waited until the end of the tournament next year before extending, especially since Southgate himself had said he was in no rush.

But the announcement of the deal now means the pressure will be on in Qatar, if it wasn’t already.

What Manchester United fans should expect from Michael Carrick

With Manchester United’s managerial merry-go-round set to take off once again following the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, fans are looking forward.

Tonight they take on Villarreal in a Champions League group stage game, where a win would confirm their progression to the knockout rounds with a game to spare.

Michael Carrick will be the man in charge of the team for the outing, but what should Reds fans expect from the team bearing in mind it’s only been two days since he was placed in temporary charge?



The reality is, they should expect absolutely nothing to be different.

That isn’t because Solskjaer shouldn’t have been sacked. The decision to part ways with the Norwegian was absolutely the right one. In fact, the only wrong thing about it is that he should’ve been sacked a long time ago.

But with Carrick in charge, nothing will change for now. That’s because the former United and England midfielder hasn’t got his full coaching badges and his only experience with running a team is in the previous regime.

It’s believed that Carrick and Kieran McKenna were the coaches that ran the training sessions under Solskjaer’s management, so they are unlikely to change too much.

The timing between the sacking and the next game means there would likely already have been a plan in place for the game. The team selection could change slightly based on weekend performances, but ultimately the strategy will have already been settled upon.

Manchester United's English first-team coach Michael Carrick and Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer look on during the...

Mick Phelan is also still part of the setup and as the most experienced, his voice and opinion is likely to hold the most weight. This is ultimately the same setup that has failed miserably this season, just without the man who was the face of it running the show.

United won’t see a change in their fortunes, results or performances until they have settled on a new manager. Interim or not, the change in ideas and execution are what will bring a change, not just getting rid of Solskjaer.

It’s been said countless times before and will be said countless times in the future until there is change, the manager’s position is far from the only problem at the club.

The owners and the board are incompetent when it comes to making football-related decisions, so with no clear plan or strategy in place it’s impossible to have a real path and route to success.

So when United head to El Madrigal and inevitably look poorly organised and lacking a style, don’t be surprised. If they fail to win, don’t say that sacking Ole was potentially the wrong decision.

Use context, be smart and be realistic. This is a process that even United fans don’t trust the board to get right, so don’t expect immediate results.

Who should replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager?

It’s been a long time coming, but the Premier League is another manager down following this weekend of fixtures.

Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-1 defeat to Watford on Saturday afternoon, meaning they are now on the hunt for their fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

There are several names being touted for the role currently, although it seems as though United will wait until the summer to make a permanent appointment. But which of the names being touted most are the best fit? These are my thoughts on the top five names linked with the role.



Zinedine Zidane – Unattached

A three time Champions League winner and two time La Liga champion, Zidane seemingly completed the football management game during his time at Real Madrid across two stints in charge.

The Frenchman left on his own accord on both occasions after successful spells, where his side were quite rigid with their style of play but always very tough to beat. His record in big games spoke for itself, with his willingness to rotate his team and trust young players also very impressive.

Zinedine Zidane Head coach in action during La Liga match round 38 between Real Madrid and Villarreal CF at Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. .

A superstar in his own right, Zidane was able to keep big egos in check at Madrid and would be able to do the same at Old Trafford too. However with a lack of interest in the Premier League and no real interest in the job itself, if he did arrive you can only assume it’s for the wrong reasons and that never bodes well.

Tactically he is adaptable, willing to play different ways and systems depending on his team and the opposition and he would suit the superstar reputation that fans like too.
SUITABILITY – 7/10


Head Coach Mauricio Pochettino during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Paris Saint Germain and FC Nantes at Parc des Princes on November 20, 2021...

Mauricio Pochettino – PSG

A manager who has forever been linked with the manager’s position at Old Trafford, Pochettino currently sits in the hot seat at Paris Saint-Germain.

Managing the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Marco Verratti and Marquinhos, it’s hard to see why Pochettino would be interested in potentially moving to United at the current time but reports suggest that he is.

Attacking football with high intensity and rigid defensive structure, based around possession Pochettino is an excellent fit to the traditions of Manchester United, and now is as good a time as ever to finally get him in the job.
SUITABILITY – 8/10


Leicester City Manager Brendan Rodgers during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at King Power Stadium on November 20, 2021...

Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City

I’m probably a bigger Brendan Rodgers fan than most, and this appointment doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world to me.

A big advocate of possession football, Rodgers is happy to bring youth players through too while he has proven himself as one of the better managers in England since moving to Leicester. He surpassed expectations while with Celtic, and then came to Leicester and won the club’s first ever FA Cup while missing out on top four twice because of final day defeats.

A former Liverpool connection will put some fans off, but he would come in and add to the foundations that Solskjaer has left behind. Unfortunately though, we already know that he isn’t really one to be able to compete with Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel which is what United need so he probably shouldn’t be among the top candidates for the role.
SUITABILITY – 5/10


Luis Enrique, coach of Spain celebrate winning during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Spain and Sweden at the...

Luis Enrique – Spain

Enrique’s reputation has only grown since he took over as Spain manager for a second time following the tragic passing of his daughter due to cancer, but it’s all to do with his team’s performances on the pitch.

After winning the treble at Barcelona with the legendary ‘MSN’ striker trio, he has taken over the role of national team manager and implemented a style that has caught the eye of many. They pushed a France side all the way to the limit during the Nations League and Italy were pushed all the way at Euro 2020 too, before they got a win back over them to end their unbeaten run.

High intensity, fast-paced possession football with the sole intent to score as many goals as possible, Enrique likes to work with young talent and with pace. While he’d be a brilliant fit for what United need, he is likely to have no interest and with the World Cup not far away now this is dead before it even takes off.
SUITABILITY – 7/10


Head coach Erik Ten Hag of Ajax Amsterdam looks on during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax and Go Ahead Eagles at Johan Cruijff Arena on...

Erik ten Hag – Ajax

The man at the top of a lot of fan’s wishlists, Ajax manager Erik ten Hag is one of the hottest prospects in European football for the work he has done with the Amsterdam giants.

His brilliant young team are constantly bringing through young players as is tradition with the club, while still performing to a high level both domestically and in Europe. A true coach, he is constantly tweaking the team to improve which shows just how adaptable he is.

Always looking to play attacking, front-foot football, ten Hag could potentially be the man to challenge the elite coaches already in the league. He is obviously untested in the Premier League, but if his Champions League record with a lesser side is anything to go by, then it could be a master-stroke by the board.
SUITABILITY – 8/10

What is best for Raheem Sterling’s future?

After Euro 2020, it seemed as though Raheem Sterling had got his career back on track after a stellar tournament for England.

The winger chipped in with three goals in the first four games, then assisted Harry Kane’s first goal in the quarter-final against Ukraine before winning a penalty in extra-time of the semi-final against Denmark to help England to their first final since 1966.

But despite that form and level of performance, Sterling has found himself on the periphery at Manchester City once again this season.



After losing his place to Phil Foden in the second half of last season, Sterling was named as a starter in the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea which gave many some hope that he would be involved going forward.

Fast forward to the start of the season though and Pep Guardiola had signed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for £100m and only Sergio Aguero had left the club. Sterling’s place was under more threat than ever before.

As we approach the mid-point of November, Sterling has started just four games in the Premier League and Champions League combined. With one goal in each, plus an assist in Europe, it’s not a surprise that he is struggling to get game time.

But for England, it’s a totally different story. Gareth Southgate continues to select him as a key member of the attack and he is performing to a high level still, albeit against lesser opposition.

Raheem Sterling of England is challenged by Ardian Ismajli and Ylber Ramadani of Albania during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between...

With his contract due to expire in June 2023, it’s crunch time for his Manchester City future now.

Reports suggest that clubs such as Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are keen on recruiting the former QPR and Liverpool man, but while Man City won’t stand in his way should he look to move thy will demand a relatively high fee for their asset.

That leaves Sterling in a predicament, as he risks isolating himself by asking for a move and then not getting one.

But as it stands, asking for a move is the best thing he could possibly do. Sterling is 26-years-old and will turn 27 by the time the January transfer window opens, meaning he is in the absolute peak years of his career.

He has done most things at City, winning three Premier League titles with the club, an FA Cup, four Carabao Cups and reaching a Champions League final. He is also the player who has scored the most goals under Pep Guardiola for the club.

Raheem Sterling of Manchester City poses with the Premier League trophy during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester...

But you need to know when to cut your losses, and it seems as this point that Guardiola has moved away from needing Sterling in the team and is taking his squad in a different direction.

Instead of fighting a losing battle, Sterling should cash in on the fact his contract is running down and get the big-money move that is inevitable should he depart.

A move to Barcelona would be great from a status point of view, playing for one of the biggest and most prestigious clubs in the world on a weekly basis and trying to help them re-find their former glory.

But a better option would be a move to the French capital to another mega-rich team in Paris Saint-Germain, who look certain to lose star-man Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid on a free transfer in the summer.

Marco Verratti of PSG, Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester...

They will surely look to make a statement signing to replace him and with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria in their ranks already, Sterling would add some youth and more top level experience to an already star-studded squad.

PSG would likely be able to afford any fee that City would demand for him and he would be an excellent addition. For Sterling, he almost guarantees more trophies for his own personal cabinet, gets to play for one of the best teams in the world with some of the best players and ultimately get back to competing at the highest level week in and week out.

It seems like a no-brainer, but whether Sterling is serious about potentially playing abroad in the future or not is a different matter. If he is, Paris is likely his best option to get his career back on track.

How Steven Gerrard can set himself up for Liverpool with Aston Villa

Since the day Steven Gerrard left Liverpool for LA Galaxy back in 2015, the countdown has been on as to when he would eventually return.

After two seasons in Hollywood, Gerrard returned to Anfield to coach the academy and youth teams after impressing Jurgen Klopp with his work ethic and passion for the job.

Then followed the job at Rangers, where he really established himself as one of the better up and coming British managers in the game right now.



Gerrard spent three years at Rangers rebuilding the club to be able to compete with Celtic once again, eventually culminating in winning them their first Scottish Premiership title since the 2010/11 season.

But midway through this campaign Gerrard accepted the approach of Aston Villa to become the new manager and has made the move back to the Premier League.

At Villa he will have a strong squad, filled with young, talented players and capable of playing several different systems. On paper, Gerrard seems like the perfect fit for a club with aspirations such as theirs and a fan-base like theirs.

The issue for Villa fans is that they know that should he become a success for them, Liverpool will come calling eventually.

Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool with Steven Gerrard manager of Rangers during training session before the UEFA Champions League final between Real...

Jurgen Klopp has all but admitted that once he reaches the end of his current Anfield contract in 2024 that he will likely leave and take a break from management, so this seems like the perfect time for Gerrard to make the leap over to England’s top flight.

For Gerrard it’s a chance to implement his style and imprint of the beautiful game at the highest level and see if it can transition over in the same way it did in Scotland.

If he is able to bring through some of the many academy prospects on the brink of first-team football and bring success back to a club that has been struggling this season, then the calls for him to be Klopp’s successor will seem justified.

If he fails to make an impact and impression though, then talk is likely to be seen as too premature.

Glasgow Rangers' English head coach Steven Gerrard reacts from the sidelines during the Champions League qualiying match Malmo FF v Rangers in Malmo,...

Gerrard made a name for himself playing attacking football but with a rock solid defence in Scotland, so if he can recreate that with Villa it’ll be a good start.

He didn’t need a superstar to carry the team, he did it with great teamwork and spirit and a tactical setup that worked for his side. He will need to do the same at Villa and the chances are that he will find some sort of success there.

This is the step for Gerrard to prove himself as the next top boss or out himself as just another hyped up ex-pro. Which way it goes decides on whether Liverpool have found their next manager or not.

Fernando Santos on borrowed time with Portugal

At the start of the international break this month, Portugal were in pole position to have their qualification status for Qatar 2022 all wrapped up.

They travelled to face the Republic of Ireland in a bit of a dead rubber game, because regardless of the result it was the final game against Serbia on Sunday night that mattered.

A 0-0 draw with Ireland changed nothing. Portugal needed a draw in the home game against Serbia to secure top spot on goal difference, while a victory would leave no question as to whether they deserved it or not.



The pre-game press conference once again led to Fernando Santos making a promise to Portugal fans.

“Tomorrow, we will qualify for the World Cup.”

They didn’t. Despite a goal from Renato Sanches in the second minute that gave them the lead, Portugal were poor throughout. Serbia equalised in the first half thanks to Dusan Tadic, whose strike took a slight deflection off Danilo and meant Rui Patricio could only deflect the ball into his own net.

Portugal barely created any chances in the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on target in the game for the first time in the entire qualifying campaign.

But in the 93rd minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic slammed a header in at the near post to book Serbia’s ticket to Qatar and condemn Portugal to a play-off that makes their participation at the World Cup far from certain.

Santos has been in charge of Portugal since September 2014, when he took over from Carlos Quieroz after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The former Greece manager saved that campaign and led them in that World Cup, before then winning Euro 2016. He then led the team into the 2018 World Cup, where as European champions they really disappointed by crashing out in the round of 16 to Uruguay.

That should’ve been the trigger for Santos to depart, but instead Portugal opted to keep him and gave him the extra credit of winning Euro 2016. He responded by winning the first ever version of the UEFA Nations League the following year, defeating Holland in the final.

Since then however, it’s not been great going. Portugal struggled at Euro 2020 to a late win over Hungary in the opening group game before a defeat to Germany and a draw with France put them through as a best third-placed team. They were then beaten by Belgium, once again failing to really create much going forward.

Head coach Fernando Santos of Portugal, is seen during the UEFA EURO 2020, Round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja...

Now with this latest failure, it seems like his time as being the right man for the job is probably over.

With the squad at his disposal, he is a totally wrong fit for the team. Santos is constantly putting defence first when trying to sort a squad out, despite the abundance of attacking talent he has available to him.

The first thought of the manager is always not to lose rather than to win, which fitted well with expectations when he first took over but not so much anymore.

This is a squad that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world with a bit of tactical invention and good structure.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Ronaldo among the ranks then this is a team very capable of scoring goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal , Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes warm up prior the friendly football match between Portugal and Andorra, at the Luz...

With a four month period now between the failure and the play-offs in March, there is a chance to make a change now and bring in a more attack-minded coach like Leonardo Jardim to get the best out of this upcoming generation of attacking talent.

Santos is on borrowed time with Portugal and they have a chance to make it right before they miss out on a World Cup competition for the first time since 2002.