In the build-up to last season, the Premier League was bewitched by the prospect of Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho locking horns.
The blood and viscera of the Clásico rivalry would be rekindled in Mancunia. Or it would it have been, had Antonio Conte’s Chelsea not cantered to a superb title win in May.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of Conte’s success. In his first year of managing outside his native Italy, he reinvented a squad that had stumbled to an anonymous finish the season before, his 3-5-2 formation converting Victor Moses into a world-class fullback.
Abetted by the surging talents of N’Golo Kanté and Eden Hazard, Chelsea won 13 consecutive games and never looked back.
It makes their collapse all the more surprising. Conte’s men have already lost six times this season, whilst Alvaro Morata has struggled to replace the departed Diego Costa.
Chelsea’s recruitment strategy has been shambolic, with several Italian’s preferred arrivals being overlooked by a hesitant boardroom.
After losing 4-1 in a dismal display against Watford, rumours of his sacking have gathered pace. If he goes, here are five candidates who could fill his place in the dugout.