Even before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked as Manchester United manager last November, there was plenty of chatter about who should replace him.
Ralf Rangnick was ultimately handed the reins on an interim basis until the end of the season, but the hunt for a permanent successor to Solskjaer continues. The identity of the two frontrunners has not changed since the position became available: Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino remain the bookmakers’ favourites.
Back in November, though, another name was touted. Brendan Rodgers had led Leicester City to FA Cup glory a few months prior, having also securing back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Premier League. Despite his Liverpool connections, Rodgers was seen by some as the best choice to assume control of United.
The Northern Irishman was on the Old Trafford touchline on Saturday, but he was occupying the away dugout rather than the home one as Leicester drew 1-1 with Rangnick’s Red Devils.
Rodgers is seldom mentioned as a contender for the United job these days. His stock has fallen amid a difficult campaign with Leicester. In fact, discussions involving Rodgers in recent months have centred on whether the Foxes might sack him, not whether he might take a job higher up the food chain.
Rodgers was always a long shot to take charge of United, but Leicester have done the right thing to stick with him up to now. Despite his side’s underwhelming performance in the Premier League this term, Rodgers is still the right man for the position at the King Power Stadium.
Having come so close to Champions League qualification in 2019/20 and 2020/21, this has been a disappointing campaign for Leicester. There are mitigating factors, though.
Every club suffers injuries, but the Foxes have been particularly unfortunate with them. Rodgers has had to name a makeshift back four for much of the season.
It is surely no coincidence that their assured display against United – Leicester were the better team at Old Trafford – came when Rodgers was able to name what is arguably his first-choice defence of James Justin, Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana and Timothy Castagne for the first time this season. Jamie Vardy, still Leicester’s best striker, has been on and off the treatment table.
Leicester’s recruitment has generally been excellent in recent years, but many of last summer’s recruits have struggled. Patson Daka and Ademola Lookman have impressed in flashes, but neither has nailed down a starting spot. Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard have performed poorly. Boubakary Soumare has struggled to adapt after a move from Lille.
Rodgers, of course, is not immune from criticism. Leicester have conceded a league-high 12 goals from corners, a deficiency which cannot be blamed wholly on individuals. At times they have struggled to create chances. They rank only 10th for expected goals, behind Leeds United and Southampton among others. A record of three wins from 14 away games poses questions of the team’s character.
Yet the critics should go over the top. This has been a mediocre season rather than a disastrous one. Leicester are on course to finish in the top half of the Premier League. They may yet win silverware in the form of the Europa Conference League. Now that key players are returning to full fitness, the Foxes have the chance to build some momentum to carry into next term.
Rodgers will not be the Manchester United manager at the start of 2022/23, but he deserves to still be the Leicester one.