What Manchester United can learn from Chelsea in the art of the quick managerial fix
As Manchester United seek an interim head coach to bring their season to life, what could they learn from Chelsea, their opponents on Sunday and the masters of using new managers to trigger revivals in Roman’s time Abramovich?
Ignore noise and emotion
There were only two questions on the mind of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich when he was offered the option of appointing Rafael Benitez as the club’s interim manager in November 2012 – would he make sure he a top-three spot and could he save the season with a trophy?
Nothing else mattered. After sacking former player Roberto Di Matteo, Abramovich was warned that fans wouldn’t like him, that he and the board would face criticism, but his first priority was to do what gave Chelsea the best chance of success and take care of the rest later.
Sure enough, Benitez clinched a third place and the Europa League, as well as a Champions League qualification, before Abramovich brought Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge seven months later in a move that was celebrated by fans who had refused to get behind. the Spanish.
In January, Abramovich and Chelsea manager Marina Granovskaia were again warned about the appointment of Thomas Tuchel, who had a reputation for falling out with his bosses, and how it would play out with supporters who had been upset by the sacking of another club legend, Frank Lampard. But, just like with Benitez nine years ago, results were the priority.
Chelsea initially offered Ralf Rangnick the option of taking over from Lampard on an interim basis until the end of the season, but the German was not inclined to a short-term job and so Tuchel got an initial 18-month contract. . Indeed, he was the temp and most likely would have been replaced this summer if things had gone wrong.
A top-four ranking and a trophy were once again the goals, and Tuchel achieved spectacularly both clinching the Champions League and fourth place in the Premier League table. Unlike Benitez, he also captured the hearts of Chelsea fans and landed a new contract until 2024. Fears, spread by sources close to his former clubs, over Tuchel’s temper have so far been revealed unfounded.
United let their hearts reign over their heads when they appointed Solskjaer as the club’s permanent manager after a good interim spell. Chelsea, on the other hand, have mastered the art of never mixing feelings with business and blocking out the opinions of those on the outside. They don’t care about the headlines generated by the sackings of certain managers or the outcry over a lack of stability that escalates when another interim walks in the door. All they care about is whether the results will improve or not.
Likewise, Chelsea do not let the status of a manager or former player dictate their working practice and it is almost certain that they had spoken to Tuchel and Rangnick before him, before sacking Lampard.
United, on the other hand, apparently did not begin the process of identifying a successor to Solskjaer before sacking him out of respect for the Norwegian. United must now be ruthless in pursuit of the man they believe can have the quickest impact on results. They shouldn’t be afraid to appoint an unpopular interim if he can put the club in the best possible position for the arrival of the next full-time manager, just like Benitez did at Chelsea.
Gather the team
One of the smartest aspects of Tuchel’s management since joining Chelsea is how he has managed to engage the whole squad. The German did so immediately and quickly gained the confidence of the players by taking early steps to reinstate players such as Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho. Over time he also gave opportunities to Kepa Arrizabalaga and this season gave minutes to Trevoh Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley – none of whom were confident of staying at Chelsea.
There were clearly players who felt sidelined by Solskjaer at United, such as Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho, and whoever comes has to make everyone feel wanted – at least short term – to get quick results.
Juggling teams the size of Chelsea and United is never easy, but Tuchel has proven to be a master at keeping everyone involved, whether as a starter or from the substitutes bench. Michael Carrick was smart to provide opportunities for Van de Beek and Sancho early on against Villarreal, while keeping Bruno Fernandes involved on the bench.
Back the captain
The debate is currently raging on whether or not Harry Maguire deserves to be United captain, following another nightmare against Watford when he was sent off for two quick-to-book infractions. Azpilicueta and Jorginho were nowhere near this low under Lampard, but there were times when both players were left out or put on the bench at the same time – something Lampard might well see as a mistake. Tuchel’s approach was clear from the start and it was to trust Azpilicueta and Jorginho, feeling that Chelsea needed their experience and personality. Both men were immediately named as key figures on the pitch and invited to serve as an example, and they took the opportunity to prove a point. Jorginho had the best six months of his career and Azpilicueta added another winner’s medal to his Champions League collection, and both men were nominated for the Ballon d’Or.
Maguire is unlikely to repeat that particular feat, but whoever enters United will need him for the rest of the season to have any chance of making it a success.