Louis van Gaal needed a win this past weekend to protect his job, and luckily for the once-revered Dutchman, he got one. Manchester United topped Liverpool 1-0 on Sunday, beating the Reds at Anfield and winning thanks to a 78-minute goal from Wayne Rooney.
In many ways, the victory was a confirmation that the Red Devils are still a strong soccer squad. It was a reminder that Van Gaal, even if most United fans seem to have turned against him, can still beat world-class managers like Jurgen Klopp in a head-to-head battle. It was also a reminder that Rooney, who has taken a lot of heat this season is still worthy of a leadership position-both as Manchester United's team captain and as the club's center forward.
Will the win keep Manchester United officials from mulling over the possibility of hiring a new coach? Probably not. A win is a win, but the Red Devils still only won by one point and are still earning plenty of criticisms for a "boring" style of play. Liverpool are also somewhat handicapped at the moment, sidelining eight players on Sunday for medical issues. (Although, granted, Man United had six injured players of their own for the match.)
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Still, even a notable win for Manchester United-one that puts the football club back in the top five, just seven points off the lead-won't necessarily save Louis van Gaal's job. Many fans and pundits have turned against the former Netherlands manager at this point. The criticism of Van Gaal taking a once-offensive powerhouse football club and turning it into a boring, offensively edgeless team won't be silenced by a single win. United supporters want to see goals and they want to see dominance, as was the norm during the Alex Ferguson era. It's becoming increasingly apparent that Louis van Gaal is not the man to make that happen.
But if (or when) Louis van Gaal is removed from his post as Manchester United manager, who will take his place? Here are just a few of the viable candidates who have been rumored as possible replacements:
- Jose Mourinho: The former Chelsea manager had a very bad run at Stamford Bridge this season, resulting in a mid-December sacking. However, rumor has it that the Portuguese legend wants to return to coaching as soon as possible-with Man United reported to be his top target. If the Red Devils want a more offensively exciting team, Mourinho might be the wrong choice. His Chelsea squad never left the top Premier League spot last season, but was still criticized endlessly for a boring, tactical play style. Still, Mourinho is one of the best in the world, and could help restore confidence and edge to United's game.
- Pep Guardiola: Monumentally successful stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich have made Guardiola one of the biggest names in soccer. He's announced that he's leaving Munich after this season, which means that he will be a target for any major job that opens between now and then. If they want Guardiola, United might want to hold on to Van Gaal until the summertime, to avoid hiring an interim manager. But Pep is no sure bet, as he's also reportedly being courted by Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea.
- Mauricio Pochettino: Since taking over at White Hart Lane in 2014, Mauricio Pochettino has helped turn Tottenham Hotspur into a Premier League contender, nurturing the talents of razor-sharp players like Harry Kane along the way. If United call, Pochettino will reportedly be ready and able to make a move to Old Trafford. For a relatively young coach who has taken a stepping stone approach so far, moving from Espanyol to Southampton and then to Tottenham, a leap to United would be a clear sign that he's made it.
- Laurent Blanc: A former Manchester United player, Laurent Blanc could make a return to Old Trafford after nearly nine years spent managing teams in France. Blanc has to be considered a hot commodity right now, having successfully led Paris Saint Germain to three Ligue 1 titles in a row (and with a fourth virtually guaranteed). Could he be United's surprise managerial pick?
- Ryan Giggs: Laurent Blanc only played for United for two seasons at the very end of his 20-year defensive career, but Ryan Giggs is a true Red Devil through and through. As the football club's most capped alumnus, Giggs is beloved at Old Trafford and would be a great pick to re-energize the fans there. The only issue might be that Giggs has never managed full-time, having served as caretaker after David Moyes was sacked in 2014 (while he was still a player, no less), and having worked as an assistant manager ever since. Compared to the rest of the guys on the list, he would be a green choice, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.
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