Is Zinedine Zidane the right man for Manchester United?
If reports are to be believed, then Jose Mourinho is on very thin ice at Old Trafford.
Now in his third season at Manchester United, the self-proclaimed ‘special one’ is arguably facing the biggest challenge of his managerial career, starting the Premier League season with losses in two of his first three games with the Red Devils. This week’s 3-0 capitulation to Tottenham has raised some serious questions over Mourinho’s long term position at the club – however, former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane appears all but certain to take the hot seat at Manchester United.
Surely, it’s now a matter of if – and not when – Zizou will be tasked with bringing success back to Old Trafford, the same way he did in the Spanish capital. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2012/13 season, United have been a shadow of their former selves as a club, struggling to even challenge for the Premier League title, something that seemed impossible in the past.
With David Moyes and Louis van Gaal having failed to replicate Ferguson’s achievements, Mourinho seemed a more capable appointment to see United back atop the summit of English football. However, things haven’t gone to plan, with former club Chelsea taking the title in 2016/17, and arch rivals Manchester City – with nemesis Pep Guardiola at the helm – dominating all before them to stroll to glory last season.
Even though they finished in second place, Mourinho’s United languished 19 points behind their crosstown rivals. The most worrying theme for United supporters though, remains the negative tactics employed by Mourinho, veering away from the attacking flair and verve that Ferguson’s teams were famous for.
Having made history by winning back to back Champions League titles, Zidane’s Real Madrid side rewrote the record books once again, lifting European football’s biggest prize for a third straight time last season. Teams simply couldn’t match Real Madrid, as Cristiano Ronaldo and co swept all before them for three years, before the French legend walked away from the job at the end of last season.
Yet, while success on the continent may have become synonymous with Zidane’s management, his time in La Liga with Los Blancos should be a slight cause for concern among the Old Trafford hierarchy. After winning the title in 2016/17, Zidane’s Real Madrid struggled in their defence of La Liga, only narrowly claiming third place ahead of Valencia, finishing below their two most hated rivals, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
At times, Zidane’s Madrid looked sluggish, tactically naïve and out of their depths against teams determined to stop them playing the way they wanted to, something he’ll have to get used to if he’s to take the helm of a Premier League side. On the flip side of that, Zidane’s biggest strength as a manager seems to be his ability to galvanise a team towards one goal, with his reputation as one of the greatest player’s football will ever know earning him respect and renown in his dressing room.
His ability to change the game with substitution is unrivalled, combining his man management style with a knack for knowing the game that only time as the world’s best player can bring. Whatever you make of Mourinho’s style, it is abundantly clear that his Manchester United side could use that right now.
On paper, this Manchester United squad (the most expensive to have ever been assembled in world football) should be reaching greater heights than they have been for the last three years. Boasting names like Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and David de Gea just to name a few, United are surely only a few right results away from becoming world beaters, and should be targeting their place among the best teams on the planet.
Now, the only question remains to be whether or not Zinedine Zidane is the one to take them to that next stage?