'I embrace the simplicity' - Why Thomas Tuchel makes perfect sense in Man United's new era

Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel is in the frame for the Manchester United job -Credit:Mika Volkmann/Getty Images

"I embrace the simplicity."

Thomas Tuchel made his disdain for transfer windows clear less than six months into his Chelsea job, describing them as "mood breakers" back in May 2021. The German coach succeeded Frank Lampard as Chelsea coach on January 26 of that year, meaning he didn't have to get involved in the spin cycle that is a Premier League winter transfer window.

With Erik ten Hag's future at Manchester United increasingly uncertain, Tuchel is being strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer, with reports from Germany claiming the club has 'made contact' with the 50-year-old. With Tuchel in the frame for United, his initial role at Chelsea speaks volumes as to how he may fit into the evolving technical structure at Old Trafford in the Sir Jim Ratcliffe era.

Tuchel said back in 2021: "Transfer periods can be mood breakers. It was very tough to leave my family in Paris. This made it a huge simplicity here because it has been only about coaching. No second thoughts about bringing somebody in or letting somebody go.

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"We have stepped in to do what we can do best. A big part of my personality is on coaching and guiding my team and pushing it to the limit, no matter if we win or lose. I have zero ambition to ruin this atmosphere for myself or anybody else. Do we have some ideas how to improve the squad? Yes, but will we fight about it? No. We will discuss it and first of all we will finish this season. I embrace the simplicity. I hope I can continue to live like this because it is pure fun."

That approach certainly worked for Tuchel and his squad, with the coach inspiring Chelsea to a Champions League triumph over Manchester City as well as a Premier League top-four finish. It all ended in tears for Tuchel and Chelsea a little over a year later, in part due to Tuchel's reluctance - or 'zero ambition', in his own words - to play a bigger role in the recruitment process following the exits of club director Marina Granovskaia and technical advisor Petr Cech after Todd Boehly's takeover of the club.

But while things fell apart for Tuchel off the pitch at Stamford Bridge, United could use a little of that laser-guided focus on the turf after a muddled few years. United's FA Cup semi-final progress over Coventry City - calling it a win feels hollow given the spectacular nature of the collapse - sent Ten Hag into his second FA Cup final in as many years while also managing to harm his reputation in the process; a curious turn of events, though one that won't surprise United fans given how they've performed in general.

Injuries and a loss of form have rocked United's campaign, and Ten Hag's supporters would be right in stating that any manager would have suffered with the 60-odd separate injury absences the Reds have been stricken with this term. A Champions League group-stage exit - bottom of Group A, no less - was a rude awakening as to United's standing among Europe's elite, while Champions League football looks unlikely next season given their blundering League form.

It has been a case of bad timing off the pitch for Ten Hag as well, with INEOS' partial takeover granting Ratcliffe sporting control of the club with the power to hire and fire and will - and that includes the manager. Ratcliffe has been keen to offer Ten Hag time - or, at the very least, a chance to save his own job. The Dutchman would have perhaps still been given the benefit of the doubt this summer, but the main charge that lies against Ten Hag is that there is still no sign of any coherent tactical strategy on the pitch.

United are still reliant on moments of individual brilliance for scoring goals, and last-ditch blocks or saves for preventing them. There is no midfield to speak of beyond Kobbie Mainoo, and the alarming number of shots United allow opponents of any quality to take is another stain on his record; a world away from how Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool operate.

Ten Hag's struggles this season are not to suggest that Tuchel wouldn't also find life difficult at Old Trafford: after all, just look at how legends like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho fared. Bayern Munich have been Bundesliga champions every year since the 2012/13 season, but Tuchel is parting ways with the Bavarians after ceding their title to Bayer Leverkusen - and that was even after being bought Harry Kane.

Tuchel's track record shows short, generally sweet stints around Europe. After starting out at Augsburg in 2007, he left for Mainz in 2009. Tuchel managed 184 games at Mainz, but has never come close to that figure at any of his next four clubs: Borussia Dortmund (107); PSG (127); Chelsea (100) and Bayern (55 as of April 23). His win percentage range is above 60 per cent at all four of those clubs, and the fact remains that he won trophies at all four of his previous clubs, and a league title winner in both France (twice) and Germany.

It is easy to see why Tuchel would be an outstanding candidate for Ratcliffe - not least because he will cost nothing with his Bayern exit already agreed this summer. In a new era for United, Ratcliffe has sought out the best-in-class for backroom positions. Omar Berrada has been tempted across from rivals Man City as the new CEO, while Jason Wilcox (who worked with Berrada at City) is the new technical director brought in from Southampton. Negotiations remain ongoing between Ratcliffe's team and Newcastle United to strike a deal for Dan Ashworth to become Old Trafford's first ever director of football, while other appointments are also expected.

Long gone are the days when Sir Alex Ferguson had an iron grip on transfers. Were Ten Hag to actually stay on at United, it is expected his say in the recruitment process would be greatly diminished. With world-class operators drafted in to bring United up to a similar technical level of rivals in England and Europe, Ten Hag suddenly feels an odd man out. He was brought in by the previous regime with a vision for putting United back on top, but now it feels like a case of wrong manager, wrong place, wrong time.

Almost 4,000 fans have responded to an MEN poll asking for a decision on Ten Hag's fate: over two thirds want him sacked but disagree on when; now (32%) or the summer (38%). The fact that 30% want Ten Hag to stay and be backed in the transfer market speaks to the impressive job he did last season and other factors such as injuries, the Glazers' presence and players' loss of form, but the tide is turning.

Hiring a pure 'coach' like Tuchel could also backfire for United: given a club worth billions is essentially rebuilding itself from within, it could feel a little like a plane still being built while flying. Still, Ratcliffe and his team value clarity, leadership and ability. That is why Gareth Southgate is also being linked with United: he has worked with Ashworth in a similar structure with England, with a unified vision for how the teams from senior to youth level should play, and boldly implements that style.

In essence, the structure Ratcliffe is implementing at United means that the identity of the next manager should not be the be-all-and-end-all, just as it is at Brighton - where, coincidentally, Ashworth worked with Graham Potter, who is another potential candidate for United. With the right framework in place, United are planning for a future where they are not waiting for the next Ferguson to rescue them. A well-run club with a clear philosophy should be resilient when it comes to hiring and firing coaches, rather than simply expecting miracles from one person.

One United player who could stand to benefit most from Tuchel arriving is Mason Mount, who has endured a nightmare debut season at Old Trafford after arriving from Chelsea. Speaking of their time together in west London, Mount said: "We had a meeting where he [Tuchel] put down everything that he wants us to do, how he wants us to play, how he likes to manage. He told us everything and then we went out and trained and we had a game the next day.

"So it was a crazy kind of turnaround but he was so clear on what he wanted and how he would like us to play, very clear on the roles and responsibilities, that it made it very easy for us to transition. From day one, as players we realised how he gives his game plan. It made it easy for us to go onto the pitch and do it. As a team we are players who react off that and adapt very quickly. It made it easy and we want to play in these big games and win trophies. That has always been our goal and since he has come in, he has pushed us and we have definitely had the opportunity to win big games and play in finals."

For all his issues past and present, Tuchel is a world-class coach who commands the respect of his players, and revels in being able to focus on coaching them. Once again, this is not to say that Tuchel would be a guaranteed success at United - but he has the right profile and skill set for what the club will now be looking for in a manager, or coach, to lead the dressing room.

With so many new recruits in the corridors of power at Old Trafford, perhaps what United really need right now is a coach who prefers, as Tuchel put it at Chelsea, the "simplicity" of a tracksuit rather than haggling over numbers in a suit and tie.