Sir Alex Ferguson’s one-time choice as a successor may surprise a few fans, but over a decade ago, he wanted a little known Italian manager who had cut his teeth in Juventus’ youth teams, and it wasn’t Massimiliano Allegri.
Manchester United have been on a collision course with former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino for over a year. After Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Old Trafford, Pochettino was the man atop many lists to be the next boss for the Red Devils. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s initial success at Old Trafford influenced the club to put their trust in the ex-Manchester United striker.
Solskjaer’s inconsistent team has reaffirmed to many that he should have never been given the full-time job with the club. The links between Manchester United and Pochettino have not dissipated since Solskjaer took over the reins. If anything, those links have only got stronger following Pochettino’s sacking at Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season.
The Red Devils may have spanner thrown in the works if they do sack Solskjaer in the offseason. Pochettino has been “earmarked” to take over Manchester City if Pep Guardiola leaves due to the club’s punishment for breaching UEFA Financial Fair Play rules.
Manchester United are now in the perfect position to sign the man that Sir Alex Ferguson at one time wanted to take over the managerial duties following his retirement. Although there have been a number of coaches that Ferguson “wanted” to succeed him, one Italian coach makes perfect sense and it isn’t Massimiliano Allegri.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s preferred choice
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini has turned one of Serie A’s provincial relegation battlers into one of the best club’s on the peninsula. Gasperini took charge of Atalanta in 2016 and in a short time, qualified for the Europa League tournament for 2017-18.
A season later, he led the club to its first-ever Champions League qualification and La Dea will compete this week against Valencia in the last 16. They have the chance to make the quarterfinals after starting of the group stage winless in their first four games.
Gasperini also led Atalanta to a runners-up finish in the Coppa Italia last season losing to Lazio in the final. This season, he has Atalanta fighting for another top-four finish in Italy and after Friday’s 2-1 win against Roma, they are in the driver’s seat for fourth place.
Considering the amount of money that Gasperini has had at his disposal in Bergamo makes his accomplishments even more amazing. Atalanta are on a budget similar to Burnley in the Premier League. Despite the restrictions Gasperini has been under, he has developed an attractive style of play that sees his players attack from the start.
Ferguson was high on Gasperini and 10 years ago, had “earmarked” the Italian as the next boss at Old Trafford. Reports claimed that Ferguson was “attracted to Gasperini’s style of play” and the interest came during Gasperini’s first stint at Genoa where he performed similar magic to what has happened in Bergamo.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s eye for talent
Gasperini ended up at Inter Milan after Rafael Benitez and Leonardo had their turns to coach the team post-Mourinho. The Nerazzurri had few hopes when hiring Gasperini and was claimed to be the “fifth-choice” for the job. Despite being treated poorly by Inter Milan (and Genoa in a second stint), Gasperini received high praise from Mourinho when he coached in Serie A.
Mourinho said in 2009:
“Gasperini is the coach that makes it the most difficult for me. Every time I changed tactics, he adapted. That was one of the most spectacular 0-0 draws for anybody who loves football.”
Gasperini’s career started with the youth teams of Juventus before going on to coach in Serie B and Serie A where he honed his craft. Now, he is enjoying the most success of his coaching career at Atalanta.
Manchester United should look to Bergamo and Gasperini for the future. With a bigger budget at one of the world’s biggest clubs, Gasperini could do wonders for the Red Devils. Sir Alex Ferguson’s choice could be a big hit at Old Trafford if given the chance.