By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Sir Alex Ferguson will be bringing the curtain down on nearly 27 years in the Manchester United hot seat at the end of the season. The betting on who was going to replace hasn’t been around quite as long, but it is older than many of the markets on PaddyPower.com.
Over the years, it’s been the subject of many rumours, market moves and flavour of the month managers. Here’s a dozen strange choices that have been backed, some of which look silly now but may have made more sense at the time and some of which just look silly all the time.
#1 George Best
In 2001, there were a handful of bets for Georgie Boy to become Next Manchester United manager. It says a lot about his credentials that the prospect of him becoming manager when he’s dead is only marginally more absurd than his chance when he was actually alive.
He’s currently: still dead
#2 George Burley
Being Scottish and having something approaching massive success with a smaller club was enough to see a flurry of bets for Burley around the turn of the millennium. Yes, you might chuckle and comment about how it sounds ridiculous how a ‘flavour of the month’ Scottish manager could ever be considered a potential United manager, but look at the top of the betting for the job now and you may not find it so amusing.
He’s currently: got sacked by Apollon Limassol after two games in charge in May 2012
#3 Johan Cruyff
Due to the magic combination of enjoying managerial success, but rarely being in employment, Cruyff has been a constant on the list of potential United managers for many years. For much of the lifetime of the market he’s been an unlikely but not impossible candidate, but nowadays he seems as realistic a candidate as Dale Winton. He might match Fergie in the grumpiness stakes, but that’s were the similarity ends.
He’s currently: ‘Managing Catalonia and upsetting people at Ajax
#4 Dick Advocaat
His track record of being a winner in the two horse race that is the SPL meant at least he had success on his CV, but Graeme Souness’s career shows us that it doesn’t count for much south of the border. He’s gone on to have plenty of success, but was never quite United material – like Juan Sebastian Veron.
He’s currently: trying to win the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven
#5 Terry Venables
Terry Venables does bring some things to the table. But you’d wonder if ‘having fantastic hair for a man of his age’ the right characteristic to keep United going forward post-Fergie. His pretend success of Euro 1996 may have still influenced some bets in the early naughties, but now he seems as relevant as having a house phone.
He’s currently: constantly being linked to vacancies at middle ranking clubs and technical advisor at Wembley FC of the Combined Counties League.
#6 Arsene Wenger
For years the prospect of Arsene ever getting the Old Trafford job was ludicrous based on his long running beef with Fergie and by extension United, now it’s just ludicrous based on the fact he doesn’t win anything.
He’s currently: still not winning things with Arsenal
#7 Gordon Strachan
There was a point when Strachan’s star was shining bright enough that his chances of getting the United job didn’t seem too far-fetched. That was largely as a result of successful spells with Southampton and then Celtic. Sadly, the big job never came and his spell at Middlesbrough was ‘meh’ enough to see him go off the radar slightly, so much so that he was appointed Scotland manager in January 2013.
He’s currently: doing the hiding to nothing that is managing Scotland
#8 George Graham
With his ties to Arsenal and subsequent rivalry with United, his story is a lot like Arsene Wenger’s – only far duller. Plus, he took bungs and the Panorama cameras have been sniffing around Old Trafford far too much for that to be acceptable.
He’s currently: playing golf and some tennis, but not much else
#9 Eric Cantona
Despite showing little interest in football coaching and going on to establish a career in cinema, people have backed Cantona to take the Old Trafford top job at various points over the years. He’s just so mental, you never know, but he’s just so under-qualified we do know.
He’s currently: pretending to be a French farmer in beer ads
#10 Brian Kerr
‘Brian Kerr is a good bet to become next manager of Manchester United’. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but more than one person has said that to themselves over the years. He followed up an unsuccessful spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland with a not disastrous stint with the Faroe Islands – mind you ‘only losing 6-0 rather than 8-0’ counts as not disastrous for the Faroes.
He’s currently: doing media work and generally grumbling about the Ireland team
#11 Bryan Robson
This was a bet driven by sentimentality if ever there was one. There have been times in his managerial career when the former United captain gave hints he may yet make a competent manager, but as much of that time pre-dates the widespread availability of the internet, we wonder why anyone would bet on it.
He’s currently: Recovering after throat cancer and doing some media work
#12 Alex McLeish
The words ‘Alex McLeish’ now feel like they were part of some sort of crazy fad a few years ago that’s long since been forgotten. Like Bebo. While winning whatever they called the League Cup at the time with Birmingham should have been a high point in his English managerial career, the fact they got relegated in the same season is what sticks in peoples’ minds. Ill-advised stints at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest have followed and he’ll probably get another job at a Championship club soon.
He’s currently: preparing to get a job at some Championship club soon