Under pressure: new United manager Moyes is already facing serious questions about his suitability for the role at Old Trafford
The Scot approaches the halfway point of his debut campaign as successor to Sir Alex Ferguson in the Old Trafford dugout, with the Premier League champions currently languishing down in an unfamiliar eight place in the table.
Incredibly, the Red Devils are a massive seven points behind arch-rivals Manchester City in the fourth and final UEFA Champions League position, making the unthinkable—not qualifying for Europe’s premier club competition next season—now very much a reality.
And were that doomsday scenario to materialise come next May, then Moyes’ position in charge of United would become untenable, meaning the club would then be looking for their second head coach in the space of just 12 months, after going more than 27 years without changing managers at the Theatre of Dreams.
However, who would United’s owners, the Glazer family, and new chief executive Ed Woodward, have on their short list to take over from Moyes were that situation to arise?
Well, these are top contenders that we believe would be in the running to succeed the Scot, with the selected candidates divided into different categories.
Favourite: Malky Mackay
Contenders: Steve Clarke, Martin O’Neill, Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers
Mackay would be the stand-out candidate in this particular category after the spectacular job that the Scot has done so far in South Wales, first in getting the Bluebirds promoted to the Premier League, and now with the assured start that the minnows have made to life in the top flight.
However, aged just 41 and in his first-ever season of Premier League management, it would represent quite some leap of faith by the United board to hand Mackay the reins at Old Trafford.
Favourite: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Contenders: Laurent Blanc
The former United forward has already developed an impressive managerial reputation in his two years coaching Norwegian outfit Molde, guiding the club to successive league titles back in his homeland.
And that immediate success has led to both Aston Villa and Fulham recently trying to hire the 40-year-old as their head coach, while it is also understood that Solskjaer has admirers in high places at Old Trafford too.
Favourite: Roberto Martinez
Contenders: Michael Laudrup, Gustavo Poyet
After the eye-catching start the 41-year-old has made to life at Goodison Park, including a rare recent win at Old Trafford, United would be foolish not to at least consider the Spaniard.
And especially given the sterling accomplishments that Martinez also achieved while in charge of Wigan Athletic, where he guided the Latics to a shock victory over red-hot favourites Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final.
Not only that, but the style of possession-based, passing football that Martinez preaches to his players and always insists on his teams playing would also fit easily into the fabric at Old Trafford.
Favourite: Jurgen Klopp
Contenders: Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone, Marcelo Bielsa
If Moyes were relieved of his duties today, then you can bet your bottom dollar that United’s hierarchy would be straight on the phone to the Borussia Dortmund coach’s agent to ascertain whether the German would be interested in the role.
The problem for United, however, is that Klopp is contracted to the Ruhr Valley outfit until the summer of 2018 and has consistently stated that he will see out his deal at the Westfalenstadion.
Favourite: Joachim Loew
Contenders: Cesare Prandelli, Roy Hodgson
There is a feeling in Germany that Loew may decide to call it quits with the national team after next summer’s World Cup finals end in Brazil, which could then potentially clear the path for the highly rated 53-year-old to return to club management.
And considering the work Loew has done with Die Mannschaft since 2006, you’d have to think he would be someone who United would at least consider for the role.
Favourite: Ryan Giggs
Contenders: Phil Neville, Gary Neville
The evergreen Welshman may still be orchestrating United’s midfield at the grand old age of 40, but do not rule the veteran out of being the next Red Devils manager though.
In fact, with Giggs having already successfully taken his UEFA Pro 'B' and 'A' coaching badges while also being appointed player-coach by Moyes, the United legend is actually considered by many to be the clear favourite to succeed the Scot should the club decide to part company with their current manager.
Favourite: Steve McClaren
Contenders: Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen
It’s a long shot alright, but the immediate impact that the former England manager has already had in his brief time in charge of Derby County simply re-emphasises just what a fine coach McClaren is, while the 52-year-old also knows the club well from his two years spent as Fergie’s right-hand man.
Favourite: Guus Hiddink
Contenders: Andre Villas-Boas
The big advantage these candidates have, of course, is both their ability to take on the role with immediate effect, while also costing United nothing in compensation as well.
The negative, though, is that in most cases there is a reason for their lack of employment. However, in the case of the veteran Dutchman, if United were looking for someone to come in to fill the void on an initial short-term basis with the experience and gravitas to take on such a demanding role, then they should look no further than the Golden Goose.
Favourite: Pep Guardiola
Contenders: Jose Mourinho
Word on the street has it that Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice to succeed him in the Old Trafford hot seat last summer was in actual fact the former FC Barcelona coach, that is, until Guardiola agreed to become the new boss of Bayern Munich.
And nothing that the Catalan has done since taking over at the Allianz Arena this season will have altered Fergie’s, or the club’s, high regard of Guardiola.
The problem is, however, that with a contract in Bavaria that runs until 2016, there is zero chance whatsoever of United being able to persuade the coveted 42-year-old to suddenly jump ship and move to North West England.
Favourite: Sir Alex Ferguson
Contenders: Rafael Benitez
While many may consider the re-appointment of United’s greatest-ever manager as fanciful in the extreme, the Scot is actually currently the second favourite to be the next permanent boss at Old Trafford.
And you can be damn sure that were Moyes to be sacked, the calls for Fergie to suddenly ride to United’s rescue would be deafening, especially from the club’s supporters, while surely there also would be some part of the 71-year-old that would relish the challenge of once again reviving the Red Devils’ fortunes?