Manchester United may be in the midst of their longest unbeaten streak of the season, but the next two weeks could turn out to be the most crucial of their campaign.
The defeat by Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford on Tuesday ended any hopes of going into the 18-day break without a game in a positive frame of mind. However, while the players recover from their humiliation, the club's management will begin the process of finding a replacement.
By the time Manchester United take to the field on April 2 against Leicester City, Richard Arnold and John Murtough intend to have a much clearer idea of who will be the club's new manager.
Given that all of the top candidates were already employed elsewhere at the time, it's possible that no announcement had been made by then, but United would hope that the path to appointment is clear. The contest has long been dominated by Mauricio Pochettino of Paris Saint-Germain and Erik ten Hag of Ajax, but the uncertainty that continues to envelop Chelsea has thrown the name of Thomas Tuchel into the ring as a contender.
Despite the fact that the German is still a long shot for the job, United will keep an eye on the situation, and it would be crazy to not at least speak to someone who would be a logical choice. Tuchel may be devoted to Chelsea, but forecasting what will happen at Stamford Bridge is impossible, and for a manager of Tuchel's caliber, this may be a perilous territory to be in at any time.
While Tuchel has already demonstrated that he is one of the few managers in the world capable of competing with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, should the money tap at Chelsea be turned off and important players leave, it will be far more difficult to achieve in West London. The ability to spend money will not be an issue at Old Trafford; rather, it is the ability to spend money properly that has been a concern.
Having spent over £115million on Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, the club will embark on yet another huge summer of rebuilding work following a season that has exposed the inadequacies of the present group of players. The problem for United is that the players necessary to fit into a Tuchel squad will be different from those required to fit into a squad created to flourish under a Pochettino or Ten Hag coaching staff.
The latter two teams both employ variations of the 4-3-3 formation, which United has employed at various points this season. The priorities under both systems would be clear, in that they would require at least one midfielder, another forward, and most likely a right-back.
Tuchel, on the other hand, has been increasingly devoted to a back three in recent years, and his success at Chelsea has come as a result of this approach. If he were to switch from London to Manchester, it is likely that he would stick with a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation.
If United suddenly had the chance to sign Thomas Tuchel, they would have to rethink their plans for this summer. We'd need a right wing-back first and foremost, and perhaps also one on the left wing-back side, as well as at least one more central defender, given the likelihood of Phil Jones' departure and Eric Bailly's desire to leave.
The need for reinforcements in midfield and attack would still exist, but if United were to adopt a new system, they would require a different strategy during the current transfer window. The impact of wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell on Chelsea this season has been obvious, as have the challenges they have encountered when both are absent.
United do not have a player of James' caliber, and if Tuchel were to be enticed by a sensational Premier League move, it would be an issue that would need to be addressed as soon as possible.
One of the reasons United need to make progress on their managerial search over the next couple of weeks is the requirement to work on transfers ahead of the summer window and have a list of targets in place that matches the demands of a new manager. However, if Pochettino and Ten Hag are likely to bring a similar mentality to Old Trafford, those plans may need to be scrapped if Tuchel becomes available.