Respected throughout the football world, Gerry Armstrong’s opinion is worth listening to so when he says that Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers would be a good choice to become the next Manchester United manager, people will take notice.
Northern Ireland hero Armstrong is keeping a close eye on events at Old Trafford. Such is his vast knowledge and contacts in the game, he knows all the candidates touted to take over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was finally sacked at the weekend amid a wretched season.
Michael Carrick, part of Solskjaer’s coaching team, has taken charge on a caretaker basis with a United statement on Sunday outlining that the club would look to “appoint an interim manager to the end of the season”.
That suggested they would seek to bring in their long term target in the summer. Sources indicate number one on the list is Paris St-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, who is keen on the job and a return to the Premier League where he impressed in charge of Tottenham.
Carnlough native Rodgers, previously at the helm for Liverpool and Celtic, is also on the shortlist while former Barcelona and Real Madrid managers Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane have also been mentioned.
Speaking at Windsor Park at the launch of his new book ‘My Story, My Journey’, Armstrong discussed his admiration of compatriot Rodgers who, following his success with Celtic in Scotland, guided Leicester to FA Cup glory last season.
“Brendan is a great coach. He has done well throughout his career and is doing an excellent job at Leicester, winning the FA Cup with them which was a fabulous achievement,” said Armstrong.
“I think at a huge club like Manchester United, he could do even better. I have no doubts if he was given the opportunity, he could do a good job at Old Trafford.
“Lots of people have already been linked with the job such as Luis Enrique. They would do well to get him. He is a special manager and a unique man. I’m not sure they would give him the control he would want though because he would want to do it his way,
“Zidane has also been mentioned and Pochettino is in the running. I know him from his time at my old club Tottenham and he is highly rated. It wouldn’t surprise me if United went for him. Whoever gets the job, I would wish them all the best because United are a massive club and there will be a lot of pressure to succeed.”
Armstrong was in fine form yesterday in the Windsor Park suite named after him at an event to celebrate the release of his compelling autobiography which details an extraordinary life in which he became a national hero playing for Northern Ireland in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, scoring an iconic winning goal against hosts Spain in the first of those.
Olympic legend Lady Mary Peters, playwright Martin Lynch, former Irish FA President Raymond Kennedy and Northern Ireland supporters were amongst those in attendance as Armstrong spoke about his wonderful football career and growing up in Belfast during troubled times.
“It’s a story from my heart,” said the highly regarded television pundit who, for over 20 years at Sky Sports, used his experience of playing in Spain to expertly analyse La Liga matches.
“Doing the book brought back lots of memories. Some of them weren’t good memories because in Belfast it was like being in a war zone and as if you were on the set of a movie. There is lots of fun in there too and great stories which I hope people will enjoy.”
Armstrong, forever generous with his time, is a hugely popular figure across the country.
He added: “I hope I’ve given people a lot to smile about over the years. Playing football for a career and then going into another career analysing football, I think I have been very fortunate and I count my blessings.”
At the launch, the ex-Spurs and Watford star talked about how iconic international team-mate George Best helped him start his broadcasting career and encouraged him to take his first alcoholic drink. Prior to that Armstrong’s tipple was shandy!
The 67-year-old said the finest player he played with was Bestie while, at club level, Glenn Hoddle and John Barnes stood out. Diego Maradona was the greatest he ever faced and former England and Manchester City defender Dave Watson was his toughest defensive opponent.
As for favourite moments, one leads on to another with Gerry scoring unforgettable goals on both occasions, explaining: “The night we beat Israel 1-0 at Windsor in 1981 to qualify for the 1982 World Cup was special.
"That was a really big game and the goal was a set play that we had rehearsed for three years but never worked until that night. I was so happy to score that goal.
“I think we did six or seven laps of Windsor Park that evening. The fans didn’t want to go home!
“We didn’t know then that it would get even more special in Spain when we beat the hosts in the World Cup. Again, I was fortunate enough to score the winning goal. When the ball went in, I felt sure the officials would find some reason to disallow it because of the atmosphere but it was allowed and we made it through to the next phase. We were all proud of how much it meant to all the people back home.”
*Gerry Armstrong – My Story, My Journey is available to buy now at curtis-sport.com