Chelsea’s gain in recruiting Luiz Felipe Scolari as their new manager has spelt pain for Manchester United—at least in the short term.
Carlos Queiroz’s departure from United to take over from Scolari as Portugal coach means that Chelsea have inadvertently inflicted an early blow on their Old Trafford rivals ahead of the new season.
Besides acquiring a World Cup-winning coach in Scolari, they also set in motion a chain of events which has cost Sir Alex Ferguson his trusted right-hand man.
Queiroz played a vital role as Ferguson’s number two, overseeing much of the squad’s work on the training ground and playing an influential role in the team’s tactical development from a traditional 4-4-2 formation to a more flexible approach.
Ferguson once said to reporters that Queiroz had helped to “widen our horizons” and the fact the Scot welcomed him back with open arms in 2004, 12 months after his defection to Real Madrid, underlines how much the manager valued him.
The 55-year-old’s contacts book also helped United acquire young Portuguese-speaking talents like Nani, Anderson and Manucho, and his departure will do little to help the club’s prospects of holding on to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Queiroz is known to be close to Ronaldo and helped to persuade him to stay in Manchester after the fall-out from England’s 2006 World Cup defeat by Portugal. Indeed, the winger has described Queiroz as a father figure.
It is hard not to conclude that finding a replacement for Queiroz—multilingual and tactically astute—will not be easy.
That is the task facing Ferguson as he begins the search for the sixth assistant of his long reign—a decision he may well need to get right if United are to keep Scolari’s Chelsea in their slipstream in the season ahead.