A couple of weeks ago it was Mauricio Pochettino. This week it’s Roberto Mancini, and you would think, in two weeks’ time, there will be another name linked to the Manchester United manager post if the results over the next four games are as tumultuous as they been so far this season.
The Roberto Mancini link comes from Tuttosport and has already been widely discussed by news sites, with lines like ‘money not being the issue’ and ‘suggestions’ coming ‘lately from Manchester’ that clubs are impressed with Mancini’s stewardship as Italy’s national manager.
There are many issues with sources giving such statements to the press, but at least one thing is true – Italy are doing well under Mancini. Rather, they’re playing up to the usual expectations of a team with four World Cups to its name.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, they have qualified for the 2020(21) Euros and are top of their Nations League group (at the time of writing -the final game is in a few hours). Mancini took over in 2018, so deserves the credit for when things are going well.
However, there are two issues here, and neither of them have to do with Mancini’s Manchester City past.
One, this is clearly agent-speak, making Mancini look good ahead of a Nations League game Italy are expected to win, and which would mean qualifying for the Nations League finals. The talk about money and Mancini’s ‘affection for the national team’ as well as a contract extends to the 2022 World Cup indicates he will not be tempted.
Ever since David Gill’s departure, Manchester United have been taken for a ride (metaphorically speaking) by every agent under the sun. Whether it’s the continuous linking of managers to the club (things were the same when Moyes struggled, under Van Gaal and especially when the Mourinho honeymoon was over), or it’s linking players to United in order to drum up attention, United are easy bait and a convenient tool. Case in point – Sergio Ramos being linked to the club by Marca again, despite the deal making little sense to anyone who knows both sides.
In case you have forgotten, dear reader, there were reports in the summer of 2015 that Ramos had agreed terms with Manchester United amidst a contract impasse with Real Madrid, causing Ed Woodward to leave the club’s pre-season tour of Australia and rush back to the UK to ‘conclude’ the deal.
As Ramos admitted an year later, United were always only a bargaining chip, nothing else. An experienced football administrator would have known this and conducted in secrecy. Woodward’s inexperience aside, there’s little doubt that the current situation at Madrid is much the same as that five years ago.
Coming back to Mancini – this is everything to do with an agent putting his client in the shop window and very little to do with Mancini being a good choice for United or that actual contact has been made (it might have been).
And two, regardless of the problems with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s management of the United squad, the team’s current league standing is at least 50% due to poor transfer window business (even allowing for the need to get rid of deadwood first, clear mistakes keep being made every transfer window). If the senior club management could not fix this during Mourinho’s era, it’s unlikely that they will fix it if Allegri, Pochettino, Mancini or whoever else comes in next.
The issues at the club won’t be fixed in one month, or in one transfer window, or in one season. They might not even be fixed by one manager (Liverpool needed to go to Brendan Rodgers before they went to Jurgen Klopp).
But you need to start, and all this talk about managers only puts pressure on the wrong person – the current Manchester United manager – when the real pressure should be on Ed Woodward and co.