Mourinho replacement: How would each candidate fit the Man Utd way?

Posted Friday, October 19, 2018 by

Mourinho replacement: How would each candidate fit the Man Utd way?

Jose Mourinho is under pressure. Recent reports suggested his time as Manchester United manager was to end following the team's Premier League clash with Newcastle, though a spectacular comeback from two goals down gave him a crucial 3-2 win and some respite. While the speculation over his future has quietened for the time being, it's difficult to see him rectifying the situation well enough to secure a long-term stay at Old Trafford.

Manchester United are used to winning, and winning in style. Mourinho has, for the most part, delivered the former, but has failed to create a cohesive and attractive identity during his time in charge. And, after over two years at the helm, there is an increasing chance he may never establish a style of play in line with the club's history, stature and supporter's demands.

If the Portuguese managerial icon does depart, his successor would need to deliver the type of football fans can get behind, not to mention positive results. This tactical approach would involve dominating possession, building attacks rather than going directly from back to front through long balls, pressing with intensity, and counter-attacking incisively. Here, utilising the available data, we at Tribal Football break down managerial candidates that fit this framework.


Having worked his way up the coaching ladder in Portugal, Fonseca became Shakhtar Donetsk manager in 2016. In his first season he returned the club back to the top of Ukrainian football, winning a league and cup double. Then, in his second campaign, he led his side to wins over Manchester City and Napoli as they reached the Champions League second round.

The 45-year-old has earned a reputation not only for winning trophies, but for fun football. His 4-2-3-1 system involves the centre-backs splitting wide, the central midfielders dropping deep, the full-backs pushing on down the flanks and the wingers coming inside between the lines. Using this system Shakhtar look to provoke and play through pressure – last term they averaged 62.3 per cent possession, per Wyscout data.

Fonseca's system would get the best out of Manchester United's attacking midfield talent, and he'd also maximise the gifts of Fred, the club's major summer signing. The Brazilian thrived under Fonseca at Shakhtar, operating as the playmaking half of the double pivot and consistently breaking opposition lines with his passing.


RB Leipzig took the Bundesliga by storm in 2016/17. Freshly promoted, they thrilled the league and out-gunned their opposition with an extremely aggressive defensive approach. Hasenhuttl, who took over having previously guided Ingolstadt to the top tier for the first time in their history, was the man behind the success.

The Austrian's 4-2-2-2 formation came with superbly organised pressing, making it difficult for opponents to play out from the back. This, along with a quality transition game and the development of several stars, such as Naby Keita, Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg, helped Leipzig to second place in the league.Their pressing strategy was underlined last season by the fact that only Dortmund allowed their opposition to make fewer passes per defensive action on average than Leipzig's 7.68.

Hasenhuttl has since left the Red Bull Arena, though it shouldn't take long for him to find a new club. Manchester United would be far more defensively proactive under his auspices, though his lack of a clearly defined possession style could be an issue.


Inside four years, Pochettino has transformed Tottenham Hotspur from top-six contenders to top-four certainties. During his time in London the club has achieved their record Premier League points tally, overtaken Arsenal in the table, and secured consecutive seasons of Champions League football for the first time in their history.

The Argentine has good results on his CV, which is vital for any potential Manchester United manager. He also implements a style the club and its fans would appreciate. Last season his Spurs averaged the second most possession in the English top flight. Meanwhile, only Pep Guardiola's Manchester City allowed the opposition to average fewer passes per defensive action.

Pochettino's dynamic attacking and intense high pressing would bring excitement back to Old Trafford. His tendency not to ignore young talent and teambuilding skills would also go down well. The only question is: would he want the job?


It's hard to understand why Rodgers isn't given more positive coverage. His managerial career has been one littered with successes – after keeping Watford in the Championship and leading Swansea City into the Premier League, he almost won the title with Liverpool before enjoying two outstanding seasons with Celtic.

All of this has been achieved through entertaining and attack-minded football, something that has been seen most recently in Glasgow. With Celtic he has won two consecutive trebles and went one whole season without defeat domestically. His fluid attack, which creates overloads and gets players between the lines of opposition defence, has worked well, as has his intense pressing game.

Rodgers' tactics and ability to develop players are commendable, though questionable decisions in the transfer market and a poor record in Europe may count against him were he to be compared to other managerial candidates on this list.


In his first season of top-level management, Rose took Red Bull Salzburg to the semi-finals of the Europa League. During that sensational run, teams such as Marseille, Lazio, Dortmund and Real Sociedad were defeated. As well as the club's finest continental performance in decades, another domestic title was sealed.

Rose's tactics are built around a 4-3-1-2 shape that enables plentiful combinations in the centre of the pitch. This is the area through which his Salzburg tends to attack, and they counter-press intensively if and when the ball is lost. Ultimately, the aim is to create quality scoring chances as opposed to constantly bombarding the opposition goal with hopeful crosses and long-range strikes.

While he may not have the 'name' of other managers on this list, Rose is one of the most exciting young coaches in Europe today. His purposeful possession and frenetic-yet-organised pressing would go down well with the Manchester United faithful, and it would fully utilise the energy and intelligence of Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba.


Zidane is arguably the most high-profile manager without a club right now. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that his name has been mentioned frequently when discussions regarding potential Mourinho successors have cropped up.

His work as Real Madrid boss may not have been revolutionary from a tactical standpoint, but it was exceptionally effective. The legacy of his flexible approach and cross-heavy attacking game was three consecutive Champions Leagues, one league title, and the third-highest points total accrued by the club since La Liga switched back to 38 games per season 21 years ago.

In many ways, Zidane is similar to Mourinho. He changes shape frequently and relishes the strategy of big games; hence his success in Europe, where performances in one-off ties determine success or failure. However, the Frenchman is nowhere near as provocative in the media. Considering this, as well as the fact his Real Madrid side were clinical counter-attackers as well as general controllers of possession, and he is the obvious choice to revitalise Manchester United.

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