Six years ago, Brendan Rodgers ruled himself out of the Manchester United job.
For context: Six years ago, Louis Van Gaal was at the helm at Old Trafford, Brendan Rodgers had recently left Liverpool after a cataclysmic start to the season, and Cristiano Ronaldo was hitting his peak playing for Real Madrid. Time flies.
In an interview with talkSPORT, when asked if he would want to take over United should Van Gaal be sacked, he replied “I think when you manage Liverpool that Manchester United job is gone!”
To be fair to him, he isn’t wrong. Could you imagine Kenny Dalglish on the touchline at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson running down the touchline at Anfield after a late Mohammed Salah winner?
Generally, the main reason you don’t ever switch sides is that you wouldn’t want to burn the emotional connection you have with the club’s fans – just ask Michael Owen; or more specifically, just ask Liverpool fans what they think of Michael Owen…Embed from Getty Images
The difference between those examples and Brendan Rodgers is, in a nutshell, loyalty in football has changed dramatically in the last decade. For instance, Rafa Benitez is now in charge of Everton, despite saying previously that he would never manage them due to his previous ties with Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers was in charge of one of the most deadly and brilliant front threes that Premier League football had seen at the time: Luis Suárez, Raheem Stirling & Daniel Sturridge. These three ran riot in the Premier League, however, a lot of that is forgotten due to one famous slip-up.
In the interview, Rodgers detailed the reasons why he felt that it wasn’t working for Van Gaal at United.
“I think it is a lot about the players as well. If you look at Manchester United and you look at the players, do they have the players that can excite like what they had before? That is a big part to do with it.“
Analysing this quote, it’s almost funny. The situation at Manchester United now feels the exact opposite. All the talk in the summer was that Manchester United finally have a squad that you would expect to challenge for the Premier League title – Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Paul Pogba, Raphaël Varane, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani… crazy team.
But it’s not turned out like that. Old Trafford feels like a shell of its normal self, teams are coming to the ground and acting like it is a training session against the U19s, Cristiano Ronaldo is literally the only reason United are still fighting in the Champions Leauge (take away his goals and United are on two points this season).
Would Rodgers be a good fit for United? To some degree, yes, but there are probably (definitely) better options out there. There is a lot of evidence on either side that tells people Rodgers has or does not have a good chance of succeeding here should he join.
The best way to go about deciding the answer to this question is to evaluate the facts, then make your decision in the weird and ridiculous world of hypothetical football.
On the one hand, he has done brilliantly with Leicester in the last few years to help force them into the “top six” conversation for a bit, and also won an FA Cup with them last season. He was also incredibly successful at Celtic. He also has a track record of improving players to a significant degree.
However, there’s plenty that suggests he doesn’t have what it takes to quite get a team over the edge with respect to winning the biggest titles. At Liverpool, he did not win a league title, despite being five points clear of second with three games to go.
At Leicester, he managed to finish 5th place in back to back seasons despite being in the top four for 69 out of 74 game weeks. He also did not do anything that impressive in European competition with Celtic.
Fun Fact: Leicester City spent 567 days in the top 4, which is more time than Elvis Presley spent at No.1 in the UK singles chart (560).
Now we’ve gathered the facts, we can look at it from a hypothetical perspective. Brendan Rodgers has never had a Manchester United level budget to work from. He has not ever been handed a £200m “war chest” (as the Daily Mail like to call it) to spend in the summer and go shopping for the greatest players in the game. More money might give him better players, and therefore make him a better coach. Who knows?Embed from Getty Images
However, he has also never had the scrutiny of being a Manchester United manager. Yes, he was at Liverpool, but personally, I don’t see how it quite compares. He will be analysed at every corner, bombarded with scrutiny with every decision made, and be dissected by the mass media at every given opportunity. Increased pressure might scare him into becoming too safe as a manager, which could lead to his downfall. Who knows.
Ultimately, football has changed and moved on since he ruled himself out for the job six years ago. According to the latest news he has already verbally agreed to take over, but wants to wait till the end of the season – however United are pushing hard to convince him otherwise. If he does become the next Devil at the helm, only time will tell how it will end.