Saturday 22 September 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Devils in the details for futures of Pep and Jose

A Stoke fan wearing a Jose Mourinho mask and dressed as the Grim Reaper poses
with a P45 banner for Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal on Saturday Photo:Reuters
A Stoke fan wearing a Jose Mourinho mask and dressed as the Grim Reaper poses with a P45 banner for Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal on Saturday Photo:Reuters

No matter what way I look at Old Trafford at the moment, I see problems and I'm not sure that Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola or anyone else can solve them.

In fact, if I was Mourinho or Guardiola, I would run a mile from Manchester United.

What we have seen in the last 18 months is the slow and painful dismantling of one of the great management reputations in world football at the same time as the collapse of the club which dominated the modern Premier League era.

It is a remarkable decline really and an enduring reminder that football will contemptuously dismiss those who think they are invulnerable at the very moment when they feel most secure.

I don't know exactly where Louis van Gaal lost his way but I suspect in a few years time when we look back, his decision to take on a post-Alex Ferguson, post-David Moyes Manchester United team will be seen as a job too far for him.

He's one of the last managers to rule by diktat and by fear and I don't think there is room for that any more.

I will always believe that respect, commitment and discipline are fundamentals for professional footballers but society has moved on and kids on the way up these days are more likely to receive therapy that a good bollicking.

I saw David Beckham say recently that he is still afraid of Ferguson all these years after his days at the Theatre of Dreams and I found that oddly reassuring.

But the atmosphere Ferguson created was unique and made demands of players which he controlled with an iron fist. We are unlikely to see a successful manager work that way again.

Van Gaal is the same type of manager but he didn't have a body of work at Old Trafford to fall back on when his team failed to perform.

Winless van Gaal just looks like a mulish man with an odd manner and an unpleasant personality who cannot understand why his players are not doing what he asks of them.

I think Van Gaal lost these players a long time ago and once you lose a squad it's almost impossible to get them back. Opinions are formed and judgements made quickly on a training ground and they stick.

The job needed to turn Manchester United around is huge and if I was forced to make a call on who would be the best man to take it on, I'd probably lean towards Guardiola.

The reason for this is simple. He is the only top class manager in the game who has managed to preserve his ability to pick and choose clubs as he sees fit. Owners seek him out, not the other way around.

Whoever is given the task will need to be able to strike a deal with the Glazer family which will allow him resources and room to strip everything back down to basics and rebuild.

Guardiola is in a position to ask for anything he wants but Mourinho is damaged goods and we know that he desperately wants the position.

This coming summer could see enormous changes in the Premier League and judging by the way the tops teams have been playing, this is probably overdue.

Guardiola can have his pick of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal and if the Glazers want to hire him, they will have to give him pretty much anything he asks for.

Arsenal would offer him an interesting challenge as indeed would Manchester City, the club everyone seems to think have won the race to sign him but I won't believe that until I see him with a pale blue scarf around his neck.

Of course the one club he won't have on his list of prospective new employers is Liverpool and I must say, I was more than a bit concerned about how Jürgen Klopp would fare against Leicester on St Stephens Day.

I need not have worried. This was an excellent job of management and Klopp worked out precisely how to beat a team which nobody else has been able to defeat in six months.

Klopp has clearly had much more success in bringing his players with him than Van Gaal and this win could be a big turning point for Liverpool.

I'm still struggling like everyone else to understand how good this Leicester team is and whether they can still be in the shake up for the title in four months' time but I can only take what they have done so far at face value and on that basis, this was a fantastic result for Klopp.

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