23/12/2015 12:04 GMT | Updated 23/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Picking Man Utd's Next Manager Isn't as Simple as Calling Jose

When Louis van Gaal arrived at Manchester United in the summer of 2014, there was never any doubt he'd be seeing out the full three years of his contract. Now, 18 months later, there are severe doubts about his future.

Following the lamentable home defeat against lowly Norwich, van Gaal himself accepted that current results will only serve to weaken his position at Old Trafford. Even before the final whistle had been blown, fans were venting frustration on social media platforms, calling for the head of the man who they had been hailing as a saviour when he first stepped through the door.

A managerial change mid-season still seems highly unlikely unless things drastically worsen over the next few weeks. A change in the summer is far from out of the question, though, and that will create a huge stir as to who might be in line to take over.

Jose Mourinho is the name on everyone's lips at this moment in time after his recent sacking at Chelsea. After United were beaten by Norwich, a few excitable individuals managed to convince themselves that Mourinho would be in charge at Old Trafford by the time Chelsea visit on 28 December.

That clearly won't happen, but the 52-year-old Portuguese is said to be interested and will be a genuine candidate if United are in the market for a new boss in a few months' time. That's if he's still available by then. Mourinho will not be taking a sabbatical and wants to return to football as soon as possible, but it isn't exactly clear whether he think five months is too long to wait.

In all honesty, he probably shouldn't be United manager anyway. The way things fell apart so spectacularly at Chelsea, in fact, the way they have fallen apart after three years wherever he's been, is concerning to say the least. Short-termism is not what United need right now and that is all Mourinho has proven he is capable of giving, even after declaring his intention to create a dynasty at Chelsea.

If it's not Mourinho, could it be Pep Guardiola? The Spaniard will definitely leave Bayern Munich in the summer and has already privately made his mind up about where he wants to go. Manchester City are heavy favourites after effectively recreating themselves in the image of Barcelona from boardroom level down, but the romance of being in charge at Old Trafford may come into it if the job is available.

Guardiola certainly fits the profile of a United boss and has a proven track record of developing and promoting young players, something that is a core value at the club. There is, however, a degree of short-termism with Pep, too. He's only been a manager since 2008 and will be joining his third major club by the age of 45. While fans would surely be over the moon for Guardiola to be manager, it just doesn't seem like it would be worthwhile if he plans to up and leave after just three years.

Ryan Giggs is another obvious contender. Van Gaal has already claimed on a number of occasions that the club legend will be the man to replace him, although that might have been in 2017 with an extra year of coaching experience under his belt.

The problem with Giggs is exactly that. He would have the full backing of the fans, just as he did after taking over briefly as caretaker in 2014, but he's very raw and jumping into the hot-seat too early could be disastrous for him personally in the long-term. It's almost like Giggs is guaranteed to be United manager at some point, but if he takes it on now and is deemed a failure it could ruin his fledgling coaching career and tarnish his glorious image at the club.

Gary Neville, now in charge at Valencia, is a similar candidate. He too would be a very popular choice and, as a is the case with Giggs, he knows the club inside out, having embodied what it means to be a United player arguably more than anyone else over the last 25 years. Experience is a key issue once more. And, should Neville come in as boss, would that mean Giggs stays on as assistant? How would that affect their relationship?

Beyond the obvious four choices, and there are potential drawbacks for each of them, the United hierarchy might have to go in a different direction if they're in need of a new manager any time soon. Would Mauricio Pochettino be an option? Laurent Blanc, possibly? Even Alan Pardew?

United find themselves at an absolutely critical juncture. Replacing Louis van Gaal is probably even more important than replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was, as mad as that sounds. The club cannot afford for the next appointment not to be perfect, otherwise it really will be a long road back to the top.

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