Manchester United: 5 Former Players Who Could One Day Manage the Club

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIDecember 11, 2012

Manchester United: 5 Former Players Who Could One Day Manage the Club

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    When Sir Alex Ferguson retires, chances are an ex-Manchester United player will take over the managerial reins at Old Trafford. 

    The Red Devils are a club who prefer to "keep things in the family"—as proven by the many former players who have been involved in United's coaching setup.

    While the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, David Moyes etc., have long been touted as potential successors to Sir Alex, a former Fergie fledgling will always be the most likely candidate to be the next United boss.

    Here are five former Manchester United players who could one day manage the club.

Gary Neville

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    Gary Neville is fast proving himself as a man who knows his football.

    Widely praised for his punditry on Sky Sports, the former Manchester United right-back comes across as an ex-pro who could easily make the transition into management.

    He's already on the way as part of Roy Hodgson's coaching staff for the England team, and he has UEFA 'B' and 'A' coaching qualifications (per The FA).

    His more tactical approach as a pundit, highlighting the most minute details that change a game—he pointed out that United's winner against Manchester City was due to Samir Nasri's mistake in the wall for the free-kick, the slight movement Joe Hart made in the opposition direction as the kick was taken and the fact Yaya Toure, who is usually in the wall for City's free kicks, was absent—shows his knowledge as a football coach.

    In terms of one day managing United, Neville could well be a good fit.

    Having played his whole career at Old Trafford, amassing over 600 appearances for the Red Devils, Neville knows the club inside out.

    This is important—as at a club like United, knowing the structure and hierarchy, the expectations of the fans and the board, as well as the mentality in the dressing room, is priceless information.

    And as England's most capped right-back, and the record appearance holder for a Manchester United full-back, Neville would have no problem in gaining the respect of the players.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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    Out of all the former Manchester United players who have ventured into management, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could turn out to be one of the best.

    After spending three years in charge of United's reserve team—taking them to a Premier Reserve League title in 2010—Solskjaer proved his worth as a real manager back in Norway.

    Since taking over the reins at another of his former clubs, Molde, Solskjaer has been a managerial hit, leading the club to two consecutive league titles, the first two top-flight trophy wins in their history, and only the third and fourth major honours in the club's 101 year existence.

    With three league title wins in three years, Solskjaer is certainly gaining the CV to one day be a success at United.

    But besides his trophy-laden credentials, the Norwegian also has the philosophy required to be a Manchester United manager.

    There's a lot of United's play visible in Solskjaer's Molde team, who play with a lot of width—often coming from the full-backs as the wingers drift inside—and at times are set up to be deadly on the counter-attack.

    In the Europa League, only 31 percent of Molde's attacks were through the middle, with 33 percent coming from the left and 37 from the right (h/t

    And of course, having spent 11 years as a player in United's first team, Solskjaer is another who has a strong understanding of how the club works, which again can be priceless information.

    Like Neville, he'd also have no problem in gaining respect in the dressing room, especially considering he scored the winner in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final to win United the Treble.

Laurent Blanc

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    Foreign ex-Manchester United players always seem to make better managers than their domestic counterparts, and Laurent Blanc is no exception.

    The former Red Devils centre-back has made quite a good impression in management, even if his France tenure ended in Euro 2012 quarterfinal failure (in all fairness, the opposition was eventual champions Spain).

    Blanc started off his managerial career at Bordeaux, where after his first season he took the team to a second-place league finish—up from fifth place the term before he joined—winning Manager of the Year along the way.

    The following campaign he took the popular French club to their first Ligue 1 title win in 10 years, and only the sixth in their history. On top of that he also led the team to a Coupe de la Ligue trophy win.

    His last season at Bordeaux ended in a disappointing sixth place, but he nonetheless won many admirers for getting his side to play some beautiful football despite their relative lack of top class technical ability.

    This earned him the France job, and his style of fluid, exciting football—allowing the flair players like Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jeremy Menez and Yoann Gourcuff the freedom to be creative—gave the nation good hope heading into Euro 2012.

    While it didn't exactly go to plan, Blanc proved his managerial capability in his team's confident and assertive performances leading up to and including the first two games of the tournament.

    At the moment Blanc isn't the best candidate to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, but he has a basic understanding of how the club works, having spent his last two seasons as a player at Old Trafford.

    Also, his winning mentality, backed up by his win statistics of 60 percent with Bordeaux and 59 percent with France, means he could get more out of the players psychologically, while his tactical style generally fits in with United's overall philosophy.

    And according to a report in the Daily Mirror, Blanc is apparently trying to master English in hope of one day replacing Sir Alex at Manchester United. Watch this space.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    It's a long shot, and he may not even want to go into management when he retires, but Cristiano Ronaldo might one day end up as Manchester United manager.

    If he ever did, he'd certainly have no problem whatsoever in gaining the respect of the players, especially considering he is arguably the most talented player to ever grace the Old Trafford pitch.

    In his last season at the club for example, he set up a direct goalscoring chance for a teammate five times every game on average, meaning had his teammates tucked away every chance Ronaldo presented for them, the Portuguese winger could have ended the season with 165 assists in the league.

    While Ronaldo is many years away from finishing his career let alone diving into the relentless world of football management, if he ever did have ambitions of managing United, like Diego Maradona and the Argentina job, they could be realised.

    And he'd probably be pretty good at it too. Unlike in previous generations, the football landscape is slowing down in its rate of change, meaning Ronaldo's instructions to his players on how to skip past defenders would remain a contemporary piece of advice.

Ryan Giggs

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    All other former Manchester United players who are now managers, simply put, will never be good enough to ever manage the club.

    So we're cheating a bit with this last one seen as he still plays for the club, but if the word of Sir Alex Ferguson and journalists on the inside are to be believed, Ryan Giggs will one day take over as United manager.

    According to many reports (here via The Telegraph), Sir Alex back in February stated his desire for Giggs to succeed him when he retires, while Oliver Holt at the Daily Mirror believes Giggs could indeed be that man:

    The strong belief, and desire, at the club is that the appointment should be internal.

    And the players’ expectation is that Ryan Giggs will take charge in the summer of either 2013 or 2014.

    It is also their expectation that Giggs will be assisted by Paul Scholes and Gary Neville as part of the first team set-up.

    And as Holt argues, it's an appointment that would make sense:

    It is the line that Barcelona first pursued when they promoted Guardiola from Barcelona B and, more recently, when they appointed Tito Vilanova to replace Guardiola.

    It is the Boot Room way, the system that served Liverpool so well for so long after the foundations laid by Bill Shankly.

    When you have a manager who has established an ethos at a club, an ethos that has brought unparalleled success, why ask someone to come in and rip it all up?

    Giggs would be another player with complete control and respect of the dressing room, especially since he is United's record appearance holder in all competitions and has more prestigious winners medals (having won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two UEFA Champions League titles, four League Cups and a Club World Cup trophy) than 99.9 percent of professional footballers could ever dream of winning.

    He's also another player who would have an inside-out knowledge of how the club is run, the expectations of the board and fans, and how the transfer and wage policy and negotiations work, all of which would make his job much easier compared to an outsider coming in.

    However, whether he has Ferguson's tactical nous remains to be seen.

    Either way, don't be surprised if in a few years time Ryan Giggs does become the next Manchester United manager.