Five Candidates To Replace Solskjaer As Manager Of Man Utd

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) /

 

Manchester United’s historic 5-0 thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool has left manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clinging to his job despite signing a new three-year deal just three months ago.

Solskjaer has failed to win a trophy in nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford and tangible signs of progress after finishing second in the Premier League last season have been blown away amid a run of five defeats in their last nine games.

United are already eight points off the pace at the top of the table and there is a growing consensus that they need a coach to match the calibre of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Chelsea’s Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel.

Solskjaer has led United to two consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in 2013, but his time looks to be running out.

AFP Sport looks at five of the candidates to replace the 48-year-old if and when he is shown the door at Old Trafford.

Antonio Conte

A proven title winner, Conte turned a Chelsea side that had finished 10th the previous season into Premier League winners in his debut campaign in England in 2016/17.

The Italian is without a club having left Inter Milan in May after ending their 11-year wait to win Serie A.

Conte appears a perfect fit to solve United’s defensive woes that have blighted their season. Solskjaer’s men have kept one clean sheet in 21 games and shipped 11 goals in a week against Leicester, Atalanta and Liverpool.

However, Conte’s fiery temperament and tendency to fall out with his superiors could count against him.

“He’s not a fit for United,” said former United captain Gary Neville on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane

Expectations were high for United to challenge for major trophies this season after the signings of serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, along with £73 million ($100 million) winger Jadon Sancho.

Three of Ronaldo and Varane’s Champions League titles came under Zidane at Real Madrid and the Frenchman is also a free agent having ended his second spell with the Spanish giants in May.

Zidane proved himself a master of moulding a star-studded squad into a team at Madrid, where he also won two La Liga titles.

That is exactly what United need and his global profile fits the brand-building exercise the English giants have gone down in recent years, at times to the detriment of a well-functioning team on the field.

Brendan Rodgers

The outstanding option on the domestic market for United is Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s past as a Liverpool manager may rule him out for many United fans, but he has rebuilt his reputation since a rollercoaster three years at Anfield between 2012 and 2015.

Rodgers proved himself capable of handling the demands of winning every week in three years at Celtic, where he won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies before returning to the Premier League with Leicester.

The Foxes have narrowly missed out on the Champions League for the past two seasons to Chelsea despite far inferior resources and beat the European champions to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history last season.

Erik Ten Hag

The Dutchman is responsible for arguably the form team in Europe right now with Ajax cruising towards the last 16 of the Champions League and another Eredivisie title after thrashing PSV Eindhoven 5-0 on Sunday.

Ten Haag was linked with a number of top jobs after leading the four-time European champions to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997 two years ago.

But unlike many of his players from that run, he is yet to be poached by one of Europe’s top clubs.

The former Bayern Munich youth team coach would fit the attacking style demanded of a United manager, as exhibited by a 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund last week.

Luis Enrique

The Spain coach is another with plenty of experience in getting the best out of a collection of talented individuals.

He won the treble in his first season at Barcelona and added another La Liga title with a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Fluent in English, Luis Enrique has never hidden his desire to one day coach in the Premier League

His success with Spain this year at Euro 2020 and the Nations League finals shows he is also capable of producing an exciting side without the same quality of stars he had on offer at the Camp Nou.

Luis Enrique Tells Spanish Players To Keep World Cup Focus

Spain’s coach Luis Enrique (R) attends a training session on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Spain and Greece on March 24, 2021 at the Ciudad del Futbol in Las Rozas de Madrid. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

Luis Enrique said Wednesday that Spain “must apply ourselves from minute one” as they start their World Cup qualifying with a trio of matches against teams they are expected to beat. 

“Bearing in mind that in every World Cup there are teams of a level like ours who don’t qualify, we are going to do our homework and apply ourselves from minute one,” said the Spain coach at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s game at home to Greece in Granada.

“Tomorrow is a day to remember what kind of competition we are starting, what kind of game we are going to play and to be attentive,” Luis Enrique said, insisting his team and fans should forget Spain’s last game, in the Nations League.

“Anyone who thinks that by beating Germany 6-0, we are going to beat Greece by more, has little knowledge of football,” he said.

“Football is full of surprises and trap teams, we are going to try to be better on the pitch,” said Luis Enrique, for whom Greece “do not have any individual who stands out from the rest, but they are a hard-working team and will have the motivation to play against a team like ours”.

After playing Greece, Spain travel to Tbilisi to face Georgia on March 28 and host Kosovo on March 31 in Seville. The group also contains Sweden.

The coach singled out a pair of new recruits, Pedri and Bryan Gil, for praise.

He said that “at the age he is” Pedri, an 18-year-old Barcelona midfielder who has been compared to Andres Iniesta, is “humble, hard-working, intelligent, a good team-mate, what I see here is a high-level player, but we have to let him continue to grow.”

Luis Enrique said 20-year-old Eibar winger Gil “is very mature, very calm, with an energy and a calmness that surprises me.”

The coach also promised to take care of 34-year-old Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, who returned to training on Wednesday.

“I will talk to him, he is free of injuries and depending on his feelings and what I think is best for the team, I will decide, but my plan is to look after all the players,” said the coach.

Luis Enrique Returns As Spain Coach After Daughter’s Death

In this file photo taken on March 23, 2019 Spain’s coach Luis Enrique looks on before the Euro 2020 group F qualifying football match between Spain and Norway at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia. Luis Enrique returns as Spain coach, Spanish Football Federation confirms on November 19, 2019.
PHOTO: JOSE JORDAN / AFP

Luis Enrique will return as coach of Spain and replace Robert Moreno ahead of Euro 2020, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Tuesday.

Moreno took charge in June after Luis Enrique had resigned to take care of his daughter Xana, who died in August of bone cancer.

“Today we can confirm Luis Enrique returns to his position of work,” RFEF president Luis Rubiales said in a press conference at the national team’s training base in Las Rozas.

Rubiales said Luis Enrique has a contract until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and that it will be up to him whether Moreno is offered a chance to resume his previous role as assistant coach.

The pair were close friends and also worked together at Barcelona, Celta Vigo and Roma but Moreno appears upset at the manner of his departure.

“Luis Enrique stepped down because of the worst possible thing that can happen to a father,” Rubiales said. “He has always been the leader of our project and he has a contract until (the) World Cup in Qatar.”

Luis Enrique was appointed Spain’s coach after the 2018 World Cup and his readiness to return will be welcomed, after the death of his nine-year-old daughter three months ago.

But the RFEF’s handling of the change has been clumsy, with reports emerging before Spain’s 5-0 win over Romania on Monday that he would not lead the team at next year’s finals.

Moreno in tears

Moreno did not appear for his post-match press conference and reportedly left the players’ dressing room in tears.

Rubiales said Moreno also chose not to show up for a meeting with the RFEF on Tuesday.

“We had a meeting set up with Robert Moreno at 10am this morning,” Rubiales said. “But he did not come, only his two lawyers.”

Moreno had overseen Spain finishing top of their qualifying group after an unbeaten campaign that included winning eight games out of 10 and scoring 31 goals. Spain won four and drew two of his six matches officially in charge.

Moreno said in September he would be “the first and most delighted to step aside” if Luis Enrique decided he wanted to come back but he may have hoped for more transparency around the decision.

Rubiales rejected accusations of dishonesty, insisting he spoke to Luis Enrique in October and then again on Monday, having learned he was ready to return through Moreno.

“It was clear that as soon as Luis Enrique felt strong enough to return, the door would be open for him,” Rubiales said. “I have been honest about that. Nobody can feel tricked.”

Rubiales added: “We thank Robert Moreno for his work, he did a very good job, and we are very happy with what he did.

“But I repeat that Robert Moreno told us that he had spoken to Luis Enrique, who told him he wanted to return. We found out Luis Enrique wanted to come back through Moreno.”

Spain’s comfortable, if not always entirely convincing, qualification campaign means they will be a top seed when the Euro 2020 draw is made in Bucharest on November 30.

But Luis Enrique will have key decisions to make in the coming months after Moreno’s spell was characterised more by experimentation than either continuity or cohesion.

Spain have failed to reach the quarter-finals of a major tournament since being crowned champions at Euro 2012.

“This should be a happy day as Luis Enrique is back after everything he has been through,” said Rubiales. “We have kept our word (to) him and with Robert. We had to make a decision. That is our job.”

AFP

Euro 2020: Enrique Describes Spain’s Qualifying Group As ‘Complicated’

Euro 2020: Enrique Tags Describes Spain's Qualifying Group As 'Complicated'
Luis Enrique (file)

 

Spain coach Luis Enrique believes his team have been handed a “complicated” qualifying group for Euro 2020.

The 2008 and 2012 European champions were drawn in Group F on Sunday with World Cup quarter-finalists Sweden, as well as Norway, Romania, the Faroe Islands and Malta.

“It’s a complicated group because on paper you can think we will be favourites but then we have to show it where it is most difficult, on the field,” Luis Enrique told Spanish television’s Teledeporte.

“It is true that in this group we have been given there will not be any easy games, all of them will be competitive.”

The top two teams from each group will qualify and games will take place between March and November 2019.

Spain are one of 12 countries selected to host matches in the final tournament, with Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames stadium scheduled to stage games in the group stage and last 16.

“There is no extra pressure,” Luis Enrique said. “I think it’s fascinating. This is one of the characteristics of this tournament, there isn’t one host, there are 12, and one of them is Spain.

“In this case we have Bilbao, we love that and I hope we can take advantage of it.”

AFP

Former Barca Coach Enrique Tasked With Reviving Spain

 Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique holds a ball during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 21, 2017. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was appointed Spain’s new coach on Monday after previous incumbent Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup in what turned out to be a disappointing campaign.

“Luis Enrique’s appointment as coach for the next two years was approved unanimously,” Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish football federation, told reporters.

The 48-year-old will have the tough task of reviving a national team deflated after three consecutive failures at major tournaments, the latest their World Cup loss to hosts Russia — ranked 70th in the world — on penalties in the last 16.

Before that, Spain were humiliated at the hands of the Netherlands in 2014 and beaten by Italy at Euro 2016 — their 2008-2012 winning streak but a distant memory.

Enrique will be taking over from Lopetegui, who was fired by Rubiales when the coach announced he had signed to take over at Real Madrid.

The national team’s then sporting director Fernando Hierro stepped in hastily to replace him and led Spain to the last 16, before stepping down after the tournament.

Changing the coach two days before Spain’s opening game did not likely benefit the side’s chances.

With Hierro in place, however, there were positive signs against Portugal, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick overshadowed an assured Spain performance in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

But defensive errors and tactical rigidity soon came to the fore as poor displays followed against Iran, Morocco and Russia.

Enrique will also be taking over a team without key captain Andres Iniesta, who has retired from international football.

Restoring confidence 

He faces the same two-pronged brief that Lopetegui was tasked with two years ago: to restore confidence and get fresh blood from the younger generation.

Of the starting XI against Russia, only Marco Asensio will be younger than 30 by the time the next World Cup comes around. Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, David Silva, Diego Costa and Sergio Busquets will all be 33 or older.

It means those left from the triple triumph of Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 will either be gone or down to the last few and that could pave the way for an evolution of style.

Enrique was Barcelona coach for three years from May 2014, leading the Catalan giants to the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in his first campaign at the helm.

He will be aided by Jose Francisco Molina, 47, a former goalkeeper at Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna who played nine times for Spain and was named as sporting director.

AFP

Ex-Barca Boss, Enrique Takes Over As Spain’s Coach

Former Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique sits on the bench before the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 21, 2017. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was appointed Spain’s new coach on Monday after previous incumbent Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup.

“Luis Enrique’s appointment as coach for the next two years was approved unanimously,” Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish football federation, told reporters.

His press briefing came just hours after Jose Francisco Molina, 47, a former goalkeeper at Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna who played nine times for Spain, was named as sporting director.

Enrique, 48, will replace Lopetegui, who was fired by Rubiales when the coach announced he had signed to take over at Real Madrid.

The national team’s then sporting director Fernando Hierro stepped in to replace him and led Spain to the last 16 where they lost to hosts Russia on penalties, before stepping down after the tournament.

Enrique was Barcelona coach for three years from May 2014, leading the Catalan giants to the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in his first campaign at the helm.

AFP

Former Barca Boss, Luis Enrique Tipped For Spain’s Coaching Job

Luis Enrique (Files)

 

The president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) said on Monday “it is probable” that a new national team coach would be announced later in the day.

Spanish media have reported that former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique is likely to land the job.

“We are going to have a council meeting now and we will take a decision,” Luis Rubiales told a press conference. A second press conference was scheduled to take place after the committee meeting.

The first press conference unveiled Jose Francisco Molina, 47, a former goalkeeper at Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna who played nine times for Spain, as the team’s sporting director.

Asked about Enrique, Molina said Spain “needed to choose a coach who had been succesful”.

Rubiales fired Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup when the coach announced he had signed to take over at Real Madrid.

Fernando Hierro, the sporting director, who stood in as coach and led Spain to the last 16 where they lost to host Russia on penalties, said Sunday he would not continue with RFEF.

Enrique was in charge of Barcelona for three years from May 2014, leading the Catalan giants to the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles in his first campaign at the helm.

AFP

Luis Enrique Hopes For Miraculous La Liga Victory

Barcelona play host to Eibar on Sunday and La Liga leaders Real Madrid play on-form Malaga in final La Liga matches which could see either Real or Barca become the 2017 champions.

Last month, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said his side’s chances of stealing the league title were as likely as pigs flying.

This week, Enrique presides over his final league match as Barcelona coach, and he acknowledges an upset is possible although a miracle would be needed.

Barcelona lie second in the league with 87 point but are ahead on goal difference. Real Madrid are first with 90 points.

It is conceivable that Barcelona win on Sunday and Real Madrid lose, in which case Barcelona come from behind to take La Liga title. But it is more likely there is no upset and Real take the title after a five-year wait.

Luis Enrique became Barcelona coach in 2014, and his team could yet win the King’s Cup on May 27 against Alaves at Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Barca Will Fight Until The End, Says Luis Enrique

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said on Saturday the match against Las Palmas is very difficult but his team will fight until the end to try and win both La Liga and the King’s Cup.

The coach said centre back Gerard Pique had been feeling unwell during the week and has been ruled out for Sunday’s match, leaving Barca short-staffed at the back with Sergi Roberto suspended and Jeremy Mathieu and Aleix Vidal injured.

Reigning champions Barcelona make the long journey to the Canary Islands to face a Las Palmas side struggling for form, having lost seven of their last 10 games.

The Catalans have Sunday’s match at Las Palmas, the last league match against Eibar and the King’s Cup final against Alaves on May 27 left to finish the season.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are locked on 84 points at the top of the table. While Barca have a superior head-to-head record, Real have a game in hand, facing Celta Vigo next week before their final fixture against Malaga.

Barca’s hopes of a third successive league title depend on Real Madrid slipping up, but coach Luis Enrique said at press conference that his side were only focusing on their games.

Barca’s Luis Enrique Still Hopeful Of Winning La Liga

Barcelona hosts fifth-placed Villarreal at Camp Nou on Saturday, in a match both sides need to win.

Coach Luis Enrique on Friday praised the hard work of Villarreal during the season and said it is obvious that his team needs to win all remaining matches in order to keep their hopes to win La Liga.

“When the end of the championship approaches the pressure is divided. It is obvious that the only condition we have to meet to have any option is to win all the matches and that’s what we are going to try to do. From here on, it will depend on what we do and later what our rivals do,” Enrique said in a press conference on Friday.

Villarreal, known as “The Yellow Submarine”, have won five of their last six, including an away victory over Atletico Madrid, as they make a late bid for the fourth and the final Champions League berth with Sevilla stumbling.

And Enrique believes they would be tough opponents to overcome.

“I would look at what they do as a team. They are perfectly organised with the ball, capable of generating danger in the associative game and at the defensive level they defend very well, folded in their own side, they generate difficulties and create offensive transitions,” he said.

“They are a rival that by looking at their numbers and the way they play you can see that they are a very hard working team and one of the most difficult to take on in La Liga.”

Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid are aiming to remain in pole position for a first La Liga title in five years when they travel to relegated Granada on Saturday night.

PSG Stun Barcelona 4-0 In Champions League Clash

PSG, Barcelona, Champions LeagueParis St-Germain (PSG) shocked Barcelona in a tough match of the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Angel Di Maria set the League One side in the lead with a stunning free-kick, just before Julian Draxler added a second in the 40th minute of the game.

The first half ended with the hosts dominating the match.

The strong attacking force of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar failed to give visiting Barcelona any hope of victory on Tuesday night.

Instead, Di Maria curled an effort into the top corner of their visitors’ goal-post while Edinson Cavani sealed the win with a powerful fourth.

The defeat leaves Luis Enrique’s side with huge task to remain in the champions league when they host PSG in the return leg on March 8.

Champions League: Guardiola Wants New Mindset Against Barcelona

Pep Guardiola: Champions League: Guardiola Wants New Mindset Against Barcelona
Pep Guardiola

Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola is demanding a new mentality from his lads as they host Spanish giants, Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Having lost the away leg 4-0 in Spain and placed second in Group C, one point in front of Borussia Monchengladbach, Guardiola wants the home game with Barca to be treated like a final

“We dropped two points against Celtic, so we have to recover those points,” said the former Barcelona manager.

“It’s not a final for them, it is a final for us.”

Aguero started the game at the Nou Camp on the bench but, following two goals in a win over West Brom in the Premier League on Saturday, is expected to start and right-back Pablo Zabaleta could also be available.

“We have to be focused for 90 minutes, knowing they are going to provoke mistakes because of the quality they have,” added Guardiola.

“But we had a few chances (in the first game) and have to keep going in that sense and try to finish better than we did in Barcelona.

“We will try. I have never entered a match thinking we can’t win but we have to play almost perfectly.”

However, with the words coming from the Barca camp, City might need to be cautious.

Even in the absence of four Barcelona players who started that game that City would like to forget, Barca boss, Luis Enrique is confident his team are capable of inflicting similar damage.

He has Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique out of the game but not bothered because he knows exactly what to expect from Guardiola.

“I expect the same type of game as the last one,” said Enrique. “I don’t think City can be any more aggressive in terms of pressure. They were pressing us up to the stand almost. I expect a similar script. To make the pitch as big as possible. If they leave spaces behind, we will take advantage.

“City have played a lot of matches when they deserved to win but did not. I don’t think it is a determining factor. It is a short competition. If you make errors, you pay dearly.

“If we qualify after four matches, great. We only play one way: to win. If we don’t get the points, we will continue to play in our way. That is all we know how to do,” he said.