Man United need a sh*thouse like Simeone, they just won’t admit it

Dave Tickner
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone celebrates Champions League success against Manchester United

Manchester United need a sh*thouse and they should do all they can to bring in the very best. Hop on the Diego Simeone train while you can.


Manchester United’s Champions League exit this week confirmed a couple of things that, really, we already knew. This was just rubberstamping. Making it official.

First, Manchester United will not win anything this season. That’s no longer a surprise, which is in itself part of the problem with Manchester United at the moment. It’s five years since they won anything, which is a daft amount of time when, as Michael Spicer will tell you, this is Manchester United Football Club we’re talking about.

Second, Ralf Rangnick will not be the manager beyond the end of this season. I know, shocking, but try to compose yourself.

It means a redoubling of the club’s efforts to recruit a new manager and renewed media attention on who the lucky sod might be.

Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag remain frontrunners despite, like Rangnick, leading their own current teams to meek and guileless Champions League exits against sides they ought to have beaten. Ten Hag at least still has the Ajax advantage of nobody much noticing even in the knockout stages of the biggest club tournament going. This is an advantage he would no longer have at United.

Pochettino has never fully convinced large swathes of United fans even when his stock was at its highest, and nothing he’s done in Paris will really have changed that. They’re going to win Ligue Un at a canter, but anyone could do that. Apart from Thomas Tuchel, weirdly, who is another in the frame after his success at Chelsea and their current uncertainty.

Thomas Tuchel greets Mauricio Pochettino.

They’re all good managers and any one of them might make a fine Manchester United coach. All a bit boring, though. All continuity candidates in one way or another. They may well make Manchester United more successful on the pitch – hard not to at the moment – but they would fundamentally all deliver, at best, a less sh*t version of what Manchester United already are.

Balls to that. Tear it up and start again. Bring in the man who just dumped them out of the Big Cup with an inferior team and watch the Premier League quiver at the sight of one of its biggest and greatest teams turning into arch and magnificent sh*thouses.

There are a couple of problems. One, extricating Diego Simeone from Atletico Madrid may well be impossible. It will certainly be very expensive. But these are not our concerns, those are for the money men to sort out. Crack on, bean counters! Do your thing.

It would also – and this is a strange one given United would be appointing an undoubtedly elite coach whose record with Atleti should on the face of it make him eligible for any top job in the world – require United to accept their current diminished status.

Simeone is, wrongly but persistently, viewed as a sort of elite, stardust-sprinkled Sean Dyche with better dress sense. It’s no coincidence that his success has come at a team like Atletico Madrid, a club that was a shambolic joke for years before he transformed them into the hardy Champions League perennials and La Liga winners they are today.

United aren’t quite that big a joke, but they are without question a reduced and reducing player on the biggest stage. Can they get back to where they want to be by just trying things that are basically more of the same? Or would it be better to do something completely different and see what happens.

It would certainly represent a huge gamble, and a very expensive one. It is entirely possible that Simeone simply cannot replicate his success outside the unique conditions at Atleti.

But it might work. And far more importantly it would definitely be funny.

The Premier League has never seen a manager like Simeone and certainly not at one of the two or three clubs who merit constant wall-to-wall coverage even when at their most boring.

How long, for instance, would the media be able to spin out “handshakegate” controversies when Simeone never does it? At least a season and a half, we reckon.

Which former players, still living in their 1999 bubbles, would be the first to lament that this is not the way Manchester United are supposed to behave after Simeone’s side sh*thouse their way to a 1-0 win at Brighton? Would he ever be able to win over the fans who pelted him with bottles this week?

Imagine the joy of having all the David Beckham stuff dragged up and relitigated more than 20 years on. Simeone has always been a bit of a pantomime villain in this country; imagine him in charge of the biggest club in the land.

We’ve wanted Simeone in the Premier League for as long as we can remember, and in truth it’s probably still a bit of a pipe dream. United are a good indicator of the problem: by definition the only clubs that have any chance of tempting him away from his beloved Atleti are the ones who would also likely turn their nose up at his methods.

Which is a shame for all of us.