Howe would be perfect for United... if he wasn’t English
IN THIS of all overachieving seasons, Jeff Mostyn knows he is getting lucky. As chairman of Bournemouth in any other era of English football, he would be looking for a new manager by now. Eddie Howe would be long gone, tempted away by a bigger club.
Instead, he remains: the longestserving manager in the Premier League, and the third most enduring across four divisions. Only Jim Bentley at Morecambe and Gareth Ainsworth of Wycombe have outlasted Howe’s six years and 48 days at Bournemouth, but the elite are never going to come looking in the lower leagues for coaching talent; not any more.
They used to search there and across the ranks of over-achievers in the top division, though, for a manager doing an impressive job in inauspicious circumstances. Ron Atkinson got the position at Manchester United because he came third, then fourth, with West Bromwich Albion. Dave Sexton, another United appointment, had narrowly missed out on the league title with Queens Park Rangers.
George Graham went to Arsenal having won promotion with Millwall. Bruce Rioch succeeded him because creditable spells with Middlesbrough, Millwall and Bolton counted for something. As did Howard Kendall’s time at Blackburn Rovers; or Howard Wilkinson’s rebuilding of Sheffield Wednesday; or Glenn Hoddle’s success with Swindon.
Yet if Manchester United do tire of Jose Mourinho at the end of this season — and failure to qualify for the Champions League has done for his two predecessors — would Howe (right) get so much as a cursory second glance? It hasn’t got him a sniff so far. Chelsea and Arsenal replaced their managers this summer and he didn’t get a look-in. Chelsea haven’t appointed an English manager since Roman Abramovich took over; the same with Sheik Mansour and Manchester City. If Howe’s name is mentioned it is in connection with mid-table clubs, as a stepping stone, to see if he could handle being in a slightly more advantageous position to now. Yet West Ham and Everton both changed managers this summer, and went for foreign coaches with a reputation for playing attractive football. An English coach with a similar reputation didn’t interest them. Howe would, in so many ways, be a perfect fit at Manchester United. Without doubt he improves players — and he plays good football, fearlessly, no matter the opposition.
Pep Guardiola says privately that Howe is the English coach he most admires, particularly his commitment to playing an attacking style and the way he sets out his team. Were it not for the fact that Manchester City’s football executives are Spanish and their appointments, so far, have reflected this, Howe would be a good choice to succeed Guardiola one day.
Manchester United, meanwhile, are more commonly linked with Zinedine Zidane. It makes sense. He’s a big name, they’re a big name, and the modern game is like an episode of Absolutely
Fabulous these days. Names,
names, names, Bubble darling. Ed Woodward will make the call and he has a brand to protect. United went with David Moyes before, and it didn’t work out. Since then, mind, not much has, but at least if Mourinho is lying seventh he’s famous. Win or lose, he dominates the news agenda. If Howe was in that position would every conversation be about him?
Howe has never handled a squad of world- class players, runs one counter-argument, never played in the Champions League, never set out a team against Real Madrid. But how to get that experience at Bournemouth — even at Everton? Isn’t what he is doing on the south coast evidence of transferable skills?
What if Howe was precisely the type of brave soul to get Manchester United talked about the way they used to be? What if he could one day inherit the Guardiola project at Manchester City, or what Mauricio Pochettino has achieved at Tottenham, and continue getting improvements from those players? In just about every country in Europe, Howe’s achievement in elite company would have led to career promotion by now. Only here does he remain Bournemouth’s private treasure.