Much has been made of the fact Manchester United opted to appoint David Moyes rather than Jose Mourinho as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. But, with the benefit of hindsight, the Red Devils should have ignored both of them and moved for the world’s best coach, Pep Guardiola, instead.
By the time Manchester United came to making the impossible decision, it was already too late to hire Guardiola, who had signed for Bayern Munich months earlier. The Catalan, whose extraordinary achievements with Barcelona will never be forgotten, had agreed to end his sabbatical in order to take charge of the soon-to-be crowned Champions League winners for the start of the 2013/14 campaign.
If any coach could improve on perfection it was Guardiola - and that’s precisely what he has managed to do at the Allianz Arena over the course of the campaign. Earlier this week, the Bavarian outfit won the Bundesliga in record time under Pep’s management, while they now prepare for a Champions League quarter-final tie with the Red Devils. A two-legged tie they are expected to win with minimal trouble.
When Pep emerges from the Old Trafford tunnel on Tuesday night, the Manchester United fans will have good reason to wonder there and then what could - and probably should - have been. Instead, the man they originally dubbed “The Chosen One” but have now lost complete confidence in will take his seat in the home side’s dugout.
Would Ferguson have encouraged the Manchester United owners to appoint Guardiola had the Catalan still been unemployed at the time of his announcement? It’s possible. Ferguson is a well-known admirer of Guardiola and even met up with him in New York back in September 2012. He also wrote an appreciative foreword of the man for Guillem Balague’s superb Guardiola biography.
You can understand why Manchester United came to the conclusion that Mourinho was not the right man to take over from Ferguson at Old Trafford. His track record suggested he doesn’t stay at any one club for a particularly lengthy amount of time, he brings the whole Mourinho-circus thing with him wherever he goes, and he had managed to fall out with just about every member of his squad during his final season with Real Madrid.
In the eyes of Sir Bobby Charlton and co. this was not a man worthy enough to lead Manchester United into a post-Ferguson era - even if Ferguson himself was a huge fan.
But Guardiola, who was eventually worn down by the constant hassle from Mourinho during his spell at the Camp Nou, was different. There would have been no trouble. No sign of any circus.
Ferguson’s reluctance to inform Manchester United of his decision to retire earlier than expected ultimately cost them the chance of securing Guardiola’s services. The Red Devils remain hopeful that the David Moyes project will pay off - but that outcome will look increasingly unlikely once Guardiola heaps more misery on the beleaguered Scot next week.