Executive Vice President Ed Woodward did not give Michael Carrick a timetable or any certainty when asked to take over as manager following the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It seems certain that Carrick will remain in charge of Sunday’s trip to Premier League leaders Chelsea after overseeing Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Villareal.
There are four days left until Arsenal visit Old Trafford on December 2 and by then there will surely have emerged some clarity on what, at least to outsiders, seems like a rather confusing picture.
BBC Sport looks at the factors that United’s hierarchy is struggling with as they finally seek to name a manager who can bring success back to the club.
Why does Manchester United want an interim boss?
In their statement confirming Solskjaer’s departure, United said they were looking to appoint an “interim coach” by the end of the season.
The wording suggests that United accepts that their preferred options may not be available until the summer because they are already at work and do not believe that Carrick, who has never made it, is a viable option to fill the position until the campaign reaches its height. conclusion.
However, this strategy feels complicated and evidently means that the club would appoint someone on the basis that they will leave when they have found someone better.
Only realists, or older managers who may not be looking for a permanent job, are likely to find that scenario appealing.
Steve Bruce has been mentioned but despite being a former United captain, his final months as Newcastle manager are unlikely to inspire hope among fans. Some may wonder if Sir Alex Ferguson could do it, but the reality is that the Scotsman is now 79 years old.
The names already mentioned for the position, former United defender Laurent Blanc and seasoned coach Ralf Rangnick, already have jobs.
Blanc is coach of Al Rayyan in Qatar, where the season continues until March. Rangnick is head coach of the Russian Premier League’s Lokomotiv Moscow, which is undoubtedly taking a 10-week winter break starting in mid-December.
Lucien Favre has been out of work since he was fired by Borussia Dortmund in 2020. The 64-year-old has been linked to numerous Premier League jobs and came close to landing the job at Crystal Palace in the summer before turning it down.
Who Makes the Decisions?
Amid the fallout from the European Super League debacle, United Executive Vice President Ed Woodward said he would retire at the end of the year.
At the time, many felt that this meant summer. But Woodward remains in office, and while it is highly unlikely that he will completely sever ties with United when he does finally step aside, that has the potential to create uncertainty around the negotiation.
United says Woodward is getting on with his job and they have other people, negotiator Matt Judge, to begin with, who work around recruiting a bit.
But for now, Woodward and his possible replacement, managing director Richard Arnold, are involved and are believed to have been on the call with co-chair Joel Glazer on Saturday night when it was resolved that Solskjaer had to leave after the loss at Watford. .
Woodward was the man who broke the bad news to Solskjaer in person and he was also the man who asked Carrick to temporarily take over.
Would United want Pochettino?
While those within Old Trafford defend their intended use of an interim manager until the summer, they acknowledge that if someone who was thinking of taking over permanently in the summer were available, they would go for him now.
The former Tottenham boss is known Mauricio Pochettino is open to the idea of signing for Manchester United. It is also believed that Pochettino could be drafted now if United pushes him due to his discomfort with the structure surrounding him at Paris St-Germain.
United officials have spoken in glowing terms about the Argentine before and know the excellent job he did at Tottenham, at least until the 2019 Champions League final.
So will United make a move?
It is not always clear what is behind the club’s main decisions. Antonio Conte, who left Inter Milan last summer after winning Serie A, was unemployed and available on the day United suffered a 5-0 home loss to Liverpool on October 24, many feeling he should have brought about the removal of Solskjaer.
Instead, they kept Solskjaer and Conte transferred to Tottenham.
The feeling was that Conte would be too difficult to handle and the scars of the conflict that categorized the latter part of José Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford remain.
Yet virtually no high-profile manager is easy to get along with. Ferguson wasn’t, Pep Guardiola wasn’t, Pochettino probably wouldn’t be either.
Pochettino feels he would get more power over recruiting players at United than in Paris. Would the United hierarchy be willing to provide that to someone who has yet to win a trophy in England and was in charge when PSG failed to secure Ligue 1 for the second time in nine years?
There are many, inside and outside of Old Trafford, who feel that Pochettino would be a perfect fit, now or in the summer. But no date comes without risk and there are certainly some attached to the popular 49-year-old.
Who else is in the frame?
If there are risks with Pochettino, they are even greater with some of the other candidates.
Brendan Rodgers has done an excellent job at Leicester for two seasons, clinching fifth place in successive years and winning the FA Cup last season.
But this term is a different story. Their win over United on October 16 is one of only four victories in 15 matches in all competitions.
They were booed at halftime in Saturday’s home loss to Chelsea, are in the bottom half of the table and need to beat Legia Warsaw in the Europa League on Thursday if they are to maintain a realistic chance of reaching the knockout stage.
Throw in Rodgers’s connection to Liverpool and it’s perhaps not very surprising that there are so many fans harboring doubts about him.
At Ajax, Erik Ten Hag has built an impressive reputation, guiding the club to the semi-finals of the Champions League, where it seemed certain he would reach the final before Tottenham’s impressive comeback in Amsterdam.
He has done so despite losing so many top-class players, including midfielder Donny van de Beek, who was chronically underused by Solskjaer.
But the gap between the Eredivisie and the Premier League is huge. And Frank de Boer’s ill-fated stint at Crystal Palace may not help his cause as United ponder what a Dutch manager could bring.
Zinedine Zidane is now available but has no interest in the position. Luis Enrique is unlikely to accept any distractions in his World Cup preparations with Spain, and he will not be done with them until the end of next year, unless he decides to resign, which is not expected.
As Carrick said, the focus is on a Champions League game against Villarreal, where United must avoid defeat if they want to keep qualifying for the knockout stage in their own hands.
After that it’s Chelsea, a match United fans will approach in fear given the harsh punishment already inflicted on them by the other top three, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Behind the scenes, the hiring process continues. Club insiders are convinced they are working on a plan, even if, on the outside, it is not entirely obvious what it is.