David Moyes (Manchester United): Over the past 20 years, Manchester United has consistently won domestic trophies, consistently filled stadiums, consistently scored stoppage-time goals, consistently mounted amazing comebacks, and consistently reached the Champions League elimination rounds. In short, United is awesomely predictable: both the best and the least interesting team in the Premier League.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement threatened that status quo. Jose Mourinho, the antithesis of everything that United supposedly stands for, was briefly rumored to be in line for Ferguson’s job, as was Jurgen Klopp, the up-and-coming German coach/rebel. But once it became clear that David Moyes – whose Everton team consistently finished in the top eight, consistently made the best of a meager transfer budget, and consistently caused United problems at Goodison Park – would succeed Sir Alex, Phil-Neville-to-United rumors began to outnumber Mourinho-to-United rumors and the dream of a genuinely chaotic season died.
Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City): If Manchester City wants to join the European elite – and, by the looks of things, it definitely does – Pellegrini will have to do what Mancini couldn’t: steer City into the Champions League knock-out rounds. Last season, Pellegrini’s Malaga made it all the way to the quarters, which bodes well, I suppose. True, during his season at Real Madrid, Pellegrini didn’t win a single trophy, but that failure had more to do with Ronaldo’s mid-season injury and Barca’s historic brilliance than with Madrid’s coaching staff.
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea): I’m tempted to compare Mourinho to another Premier League “messiah” who returned to his former club, but the story of Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United doesn’t bear repeating. Suffice it to say that these kinds of stunts don’t always end well, and that Mourinho, who burned every bridge within sight during his three years at Real Madrid, shouldn’t assume that the old game plan will still work. Personally, I think this all a bit of a copout; the pre-Real Mourinho – the Mourinho who pronounced himself “the special one” and talked incessantly about the difference between good eggs and bad eggs (the good eggs cost more money) — would have signed for a rising force like PSG.
Roberto Martinez (Everton): Apparently, Martinez has promised chairman Bill Kenwright that Everton will qualify for the Champions League, which – well, at least he’s optimistic. In reality, Everton has only a slim chance of finishing fifth next season, let alone penetrating the top four. Fans and journalists love Martinez because he’s young, handsome and articulate – everything that Steve Bruce and Paul Jewell, the two Wigan managers who preceded him, weren’t. But those qualities will get you only so far, as Martinez found out at the end of last season. Unless Kenwright somehow conjures a big-name striker, Martinez will have to resign himself to a sixth or seventh place finish.
Mark Hughes (Stoke City): Stoke shouldn’t have fired Tony Pulis – he not only led the club to promotion but also established it as a mid-table contender with a recognizable playing style, a handful of cult players (Rory Delap, Ricardo Fuller), and an intimidating home stadium.
Presumably, Mark Hughes will try to change Stoke’s (hugely successful) kick-and-run approach. That would be a shame. Even today, even with Spain playing tiki-taka and Barcelona winning trophies, I’ve got plenty of time for “old-fashioned” football. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s nothing wrong with long throw-ins.