Real Madrid have a problem. Manchester United have one, too. They might be two of the biggest clubs in world football, but when there is a dearth of world-class coaches capable of making good of a bad situation, not even money and history can generate a solution out of thin air.
Having overseen a disastrous run of five defeats in seven games — the most recent being a humiliating 5-1 defeat against Barcelona at the Camp Nou — Julen Lopetegui’s brief reign as head coach at the Santiago Bernabeu has finally, perhaps mercifully, come to an end. Such form would put any manager under pressure, but with that kind of run at Real Madrid, it became obvious that it was time for Lopetegui to clear his desk and plan for a holiday.
At Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has weathered the storm that threatened to engulf him during a run of four games without a win in late September and early October, but he is not out of the woods yet in terms of his job security at United. The club sit eighth in the Premier League after Sunday’s 2-1 win at home to Everton, nine points adrift of leaders Liverpool, and there remains a sense of Mourinho’s team limping along, doing just enough to keep the coach in a job.
That Mourinho continues to hold on and that Real are promoting B-team coach Santiago Solari to first-team manager in the interim is a testament to the lack of alternatives available to both clubs.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, are determined to give Mourinho the time to oversee a revival and surge into the top four, but sources have said that this position is largely influenced by the barren field of potential replacements.
As for Real Madrid, they will have to find a replacement who can handle the mammoth challenge of managing a failing super club with a dressing room full of big personalities who are under-performing. The smart money is on Real turning to Antonio Conte, out of work since leaving Chelsea in the summer, as their next permanent coach. But while the former Juventus and Italy coach possesses a glittering CV, with domestic titles in Italy and England, there is no escaping the fact that he was sacked in his previous job at Stamford Bridge.