Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in world football, but they don’t always get their way as this list of brilliant managers that rejected a move to Old Trafford demonstrates.
United have gone through a litany of bosses since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all failing to bring consistent success to England’s most decorated club.
We’ve trawled through the archives and picked out seven managers who declined the offer the chance to manage United and the reasons why.
It’s well-known that Klopp rejected offers from United in 2013 and 2015, before joining Liverpool and making them one of the best sides in the world.
“We spoke,” Klopp said in 2016 of United’s first approach. “We spoke not a lot but, for me, it was a lot. It was a big honour, the whole talk, to be honest. But I could not leave Dortmund.
“You are in April and you are in the middle of the planning for next season. You have this player and this player who are coming but then you are not there anymore? That doesn’t work. Not in my life.
“I didn’t hear about a real offer [from United] but, if there was, I could not have done it. I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things.
“Maybe that is not smart but that is my way. It was the same at Mainz.”
And, writing in The Mirror in 2021, Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler gave an insight into why Klopp resisted another approach from United two years later.
“I did an interview with him a couple of years ago and he told me he turned down a couple of super-rich clubs after (Borussia) Dortmund – one of them was definitely Manchester United, the other probably Real Madrid – because he hated how they were focused solely on commercial influences,” Fowler wrote.
“He said he liked Liverpool because they had a balance between the money needed to reach the top and the history and identity of the club and their fans.”
A proper sliding door moment, this.
Speaking in 2018, former Manchester United player Jordi Cruyff insisted Guardiola had been close to taking the United job in 2013, before the club chose to go with David Moyes.
“I’ve always felt, not now but before Guardiola went to Bayern Munich, I always felt there was a chance that Manchester United had the chance to go for it.
“I think there was a moment where things were lined up, it was there, but Man United chose someone else, I’m talking many years ago, and he took a different way.
“I think he would have suited a club like Man United many years before. I’m not talking this era, not now, I’m talking like five or six years ago I think.
“There was a moment where things were aligned, that was the moment, and United took a different path.”
Yikes. Just imagine how different the last decade could’ve been…
Three-time Champions League winner as Real Madrid boss, Zidane has long-been linked with a move to United, but has often distanced himself from the role with those close to him claiming a job in English football does not interest him.
Spanish outlet El Partidazo de COPE ‘s 2022 report supported that theory, with Zidane not keen on testing himself in the Premier League.
The rumour mill went into overdrive after Zidane’s former teammate Emmanuel Petit claimed the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner was taking lessons to improve his English.
But an offer to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was rejected out of hand by the Frenchman, who is thought to be interested in replacing Didier Deschamps as national team manager.
“Would I want to go to Manchester [United]? I understand English, but I’m not completely fluent in it,” Zidane told L’Equipe in 2022.
“I know that there are coaches who go to clubs without speaking the language, but I work in a different way. Many elements come into play in order to win, it is a global context. I know what I need to win.”
Prior to his eventual retirement in 2013, Ferguson had previously intended to step down at the end of the 2001-02 season.
He made a U-turn on his plans to leave the club, sparking another decade of success at Old Trafford, but not before his great rival Wenger had held talks about replacing the Scot.
Former United chairman Martin Edwards told GQ in 2017 that: “Our first choice was Arsene Wenger. Since joining Arsenal in 1996, Wenger had been pretty successful, especially in his first full season in charge when he won the Double.”
Despite the talks, though, Wenger chose to reject United’s advances due to his loyalty to the Gunners and former vice-chairman David Dein.
Back in 2013, United made moves to recruit Ancelotti when they found out Ferguson would be retiring.
Ancelotti was then at PSG but was in discussions with Real Madrid and felt that it was only right he followed through on their interest.
“You want to know from me [about coaching at Man Utd]?!“ the Italian said in the past.
“I can say that I still keep a fantastic relationship with Sir Alex, and we met when he decided to stop (retire).
“But I was close to Real Madrid, and so I appreciate the fact that at that time he talked to me. And that’s it, no other opportunity [to manage United].”
United ended up appointing David Moyes, who lasted less than a season. Ancelotti has won a career total of Champions League trophies and is currently enjoying his second spell with Madrid.
Mancini was also approached to replace Solskjaer in early 2022, but rejected the chance to move to Old Trafford.
As well as the problems associated with appointing a former Manchester City boss, Mancini was then manager of the Italy national team and had won the European Championship the previous summer.
Having failed to reach the 2022 World Cup, he is now manager of 2034 hosts Saudi Arabia. Pah.
This one could’ve changed football as we know it; McMenemy had beaten United in the 1976 FA Cup final with Southampton and was offered the job at Old Trafford in 1981 – but turned it down.
In his autobiography ‘A Lifetime’s Obsession, McMenemy wrote: “I did not have to be educated on how big a club United were, massive compared to any I had been involved with.
“Sheffield Wednesday was big when I joined them in the Sixties but United was an institution.
“That meant the manager would have so many things other than pure football matters to contend with. I thought I could have handled that despite it being the hardest aspect of the job, the one managers found most difficult to cope with.
“Should I leave my family and live in a hotel in Manchester for many months before we settle into a new home in Cheshire or wherever? Did I need it? The answer was no. It was not fear of the job; I wasn’t chickening out.
“I understand the question remains; can a football person turn down Manchester United? You have to say only one in a hundred would.
“As a professional do I regret it? Well, I wonder how far I could have taken them.
“Critics have been crude about me rejecting Old Trafford with their ‘chicken’ talk, though not to my face.
“I have cited loyalty and a refusal to disrupt my family as reasons for me deciding to stay put. These were crucial but there was something else, the atmosphere was wrong for me.
“I felt uncomfortable with some of the people I would have had to work with. It didn’t feel right, therefore, for me it was not right.”
Five years later, United appointed Sir Alex Ferguson. The rest is history.