Ernesto Valverde’s Man Utd blueprint – using youth and Cristiano Ronaldo’s strengths

Manchester United are on the lookout for an interim manager after sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – and reports suggest they’re interested in ex-Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde

Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay nowMauricio Pochettino discusses Manchester United jobByTom BlowDigital Sports Writer

  • 13:22, 24 Nov 2021
  • Updated13:47, 24 Nov 2021
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Manchester United have reportedly opened talks with Ernesto Valverde to become their interim manager for the rest of the season.

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The Red Devils are believed to be after a temporary coach and have identified five possible candidates to take the challenging job.

United are currently eighth in the Premier League after winning just one of their last seven fixtures, although they are through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

Valverde is best known for managing Barcelona between May 2017 and January 2020 and has nearly 20 years' worth of managerial experience under his belt.

Here, Mirror Football considers what the 57-year-old could bring to the table if United decide he's the right person to lead them forward.

Should Manchester United appoint Ernesto Valverde? Let us know in the comments below!

Ernesto Valverde has been linked with the vacant job at Manchester United
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Getting them organised

One of United's biggest problems under previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was their lack of shape, conceding 21 Premier League goals this term.

Only Newcastle and Norwich have shipped in more (both 27) and the Red Devils won't stand a chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League if that trend continues.

Valverde is a manager that likes to play direct, attacking football – but not attractive. The Spaniard wants results rather than admirers.

That will be a concern for some United fans, who often complained about the pragmatism of predecessors Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

With United languishing in mid-table, though, it's too late to adopt a style-over-substance approach. They need results – and Valverde will try to get them.

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Lumping it up to Ronaldo

United have failed to successfully deploy a high-pressing, intense style of play with Cristiano Ronaldo in the team since his return from Juventus on deadline day.

The new manager will need to find a style that suits the Portuguese and Valverde has experience in doing that, getting the best out of Aritz Aduriz at Athletic Bilbao.

During the manager's four-year spell in charge of the Spanish side, the 30-odd-year-old striker scored 104 goals in all competitions.

Like Ronaldo, Aduriz wasn't blessed with endless energy but was dominant in the air, played to his strengths and knew were the goal was.

And Valverde is a big fan of the United ace. "He could score three or four goals in every game," said the manager in 2016. "He's always hungry to score."

The next United manager will need to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo
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Working with youth

If hired, Valverde will be tasked with getting the best out of United's youngsters – including Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

As a former Bilbao manager, he has plenty of experience working with homegrown talent. Bilbao are known for their policy of hiring players born or developed in Spain's Basque Country.

During his time at the club, Valverde worked with the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Iker Muniain, Ander Herrera and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

He also gave Riqui Puig, Ronald Araujo and Ansu Fati their Barcelona debuts, relying on the latter during his final six months in charge at the Nou Camp.

"Barca always have to make a firm commitment to the youth players," said Valverde in 2018.

"Sometimes there are people who say, 'If we bring the youth players and put them in the first team everything will work.' But it is not always that simple.

"First, because there is an implicit requirement – and then because of the high competition to play in the first team.

"However, it is true that we must support our youth because they have certain qualities that external players do not."

Valverde gave Ansu Fati his Barcelona debut
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Genuine experience

One of the more prominent criticisms of United's recent plight is the lack of experience in their coaching set-up, bar the long-serving Mike Phelan.

Solskjaer's managerial CV before joining United in December 2018 included two Norwegian titles with Molde and a Premier League relegation with Cardiff.

Michael Carrick and Kevin McKenna, meanwhile, have only been coaching at first-team level since July 2018.

Valverde has previously led Bilbao, Espanyol, Olympiacos, Villarreal, Valencia and Barcelona, winning ten trophies as a manager – including five league titles.

Although he's never coached in the Premier League, an experienced head could be exactly what United need at this moment in time.

Holding the fort

One of United's biggest mistakes since Sir Alex Ferguson's departure in the summer of 2013 was giving Solskjaer's a full-time contract at Old Trafford.

The Norwegian was initially hired as an interim manager until the end of the season, yet an upturn in results saw him rewarded with the permanent job.

In hindsight, it was the wrong decision. United should have waited until the end of the season and gone after someone with proven managerial pedigree – such as Pochettino.

The club's hierarchy are unlikely to make that mistake again and need someone who will be happy to come in on a temporary basis.

If United were to hire Wayne Rooney to be their interim manager, for example, he – like Solskjaer – would be keen to hold on to that job.

Valverde is more likely to be open to a short spell – based on his age, unattached managerial status and style of play.

The experienced coach isn't the right man to lead United for the next five to ten years – but he is capable of steadying the ship in these turbulent times.

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