Should Manchester United have waited for Heynckes?

Jupp Heynckes

After inspiring Bayern Munich to an unprecedented treble, have Manchester United missed a trick by not appointing Jupp Heynckes as their next manager?

If you believe the rumours, David Moyes was not Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice to succeed him at Manchester United. That man was in fact Carlo Ancelotti, who politely declined in order to continue his revolution at PSG…or possibly move to Real Madrid if his current employers would let him.

Whether the rumour is true or false may never be known. In light of Moyes’ appointment, it is unlikely that Ferguson will ever speak out on a story that is now resigned to headline heaven.

And yet if it is true, and United were prepared to offer the job to an older man unlikely to remain at the club for the time it takes to build multiple legacies, have they missed a trick by not approaching the current managerial mastermind Jupp Heynckes?

Yes, he is 68 – some 15 years older than Ancelotti. And yes, he has previously spoken of retiring from the game.

But having called a press conference for Tuesday, rumours abound that the Bayern Munich boss is not just bidding farewell to the newly-crowned treble winners, but announcing his appointment at the Bernabeu.

When he says things like, “There will be no more beer showers, at least in German stadiums,” you can’t help but feel he is teasing the media with a decision he is eager to reveal. Either that or he is just being playful; a man ready for retirement playing the media while he still can.

Perhaps motivated by the imminent arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena, or perhaps because he is just that good, Heynckes has made history with Bayern. And whatever the club’s hierarchy expected Guardiola to do, his predecessor has already done it.

In short, the former Barcelona boss is on a hiding to nothing. He has to match an all-but-impossible feat just to copy what Heynckes achieved as a parting gift.

The suggestion is that if PSG stand firm in their refusal to allow Ancelotti to leave for La Liga, their former manager Heynckes may take charge; almost certainly as a temporary measure until the Dutchman sees out the last year of his contract.

But should he match his success in Germany with the Spanish giants – should he achieve Madrid’s fabled Decima – could he be too good to lose?

And having given Bayern their greatest year, and seemingly just as enthusiastic for the game as ever, could he have been the ideal successor to Ferguson? He certainly knows how to manage the biggest names. And his European experience is considerable, as two Champions League successes testify.

And while that question of his age won’t go away, Ferguson’s departure at 71 came as a shock. It would have been no surprise had he continued for another five years.

Both Ferguson and Heynckes have proved age is no barrier to success. And when the day finally did come for the German to leave the game for good, and with Moyes perhaps no longer an option, would the time have been right for Jurgen Klopp to try his hand in England, replacing his former rival at United?

They are possibilities very much for a parallel universe. But it makes you think what might have been…

image: © Doha Stadium Plus

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