And so onto Pep Guardiola then, who will move to the Premier League next season and join Manchester City, after football’s worst-kept secret over the last 12 months was revealed on Monday.
Almost certainly, the Spaniard’s arrival will have massive implications, on the league as a whole as much as on the side he will be taking charge of from next season.
Ironically, the soon-to-be former Bayern Munich manager’s move to Manchester could have as a momentous an impact on the red half of town as on the blue side of it.
Given United’s current travails, the disappointing season they’ve endured so far under Louis Van Gaal and the lack of direction that permeates the club knee-jerk reactions are almost as inevitable as they can be misguided.
Reading too much into Guardiola’s appointment is a dangerous game for there’s no guarantee the Spaniard will replicate the success he enjoyed with Barcelona and Bayern – though, one suspects, he has a great chance of doing so – and because, well, United have problems of their own to sort out.
And yet it’s hard to dismiss the feeling that United, for so long the trailblazers at home and in Europe, are now being left behind, commercial deals reducing football to nothing but an afterthought.
Depending on who you choose to believe, Guardiola was either never considered for the United job or he was approached but opted to choose City instead. Both – and those are by no means the only two options, though they’re the most probable – are very worrying scenarios, albeit for different reasons.
The former would be inexcusable and incredibly hard to decipher, given the Spaniard is the antithesis of Jose Mourinho, the man United ignored on the basis he didn’t fit their philosophy.
Guardiola is the polar opposite of the Portuguese, off and on the pitch, so if the latter was overlooked after being deemed unsuitable for the United job, why would the club ignore the former?
The other scenario is just as discomforting, as it would highlight just how far the club has fallen in terms of reputation, as the prospect of United offering the former Barcelona manager the chance to replace Van Gaal only to receive a polite “no thanks” would have been unthinkable until a couple of years ago.
Both hypothesis, however, have a common theme. United are a club in denial, one which has repeatedly and stubbornly ignored the warning lights that have flashed with increasing regularity even before Sir Alex Ferguson left the scene in 2013.
United are so wrapped up in their sense of superiority that they’ve failed to notice commercial deals alone aren’t enough to guarantee success on the pitch and, after spending the last quarter of a century amassing trophies and mocking their rivals’ inability to address their failures, they have lost their aura.
And so, while their City sign arguably the best manager in the world, Liverpool appoint one of their most exciting managers available – admittedly one whose impact might be limited by a woeful squad – United stagger forward without any discernible plan.
They neighbours are no longer noisy, they’re having a party downstairs while the owner is asleep upstairs, seemingly unaware of it all.
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