Kieran McKenna is football's most wanted man after leading Ipswich to the Premier League - so should he stay, move to Brighton... or take the giant leap to Chelsea or Man United?

The options are opening up for Kieran McKenna after his success with IpswichChelsea and Man United are risky options, while Ipswich are Brighton are safer  Chelsea are 'baffling'... Mauricio Pochettino has NOT failed - where do the Blues go from here? Listen to the It's All Kicking Off! Podcast

If Kieran McKenna took a time machine back to December 2021, he'd have a hard time convincing himself that he would one day be England's most wanted man.

That day has arrived for a rising talent who inherited an Ipswich side in stasis, marooned in 12th in League One and licking wounds from having three consecutive managers called Paul.

Two promotions later and Manchester United, Chelsea, and Brighton are all circling. Your former club, a super-duper rich club, or the 'smart' option where stringing together a few passes makes you the next Pep Guardiola - take your pick, Kieran.

The chances of him signing a new long-term deal at Portman Road are slim and he has a £4million release clause, roughly equivalent to the price United paid for Antony's big toe.

What should McKenna do? Mail Sport assess the four options on his plate.

Kieran McKenna is a hero at Ipswich after leading them from League One to the top flight - and now everybody wants him

Mail Sport assesses his options with Brighton, Manchester United, and Chelsea all on the table

Mail Sport assesses his options with Brighton, Manchester United, and Chelsea all on the table

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Stay at Ipswich for romance and reputation 

The romantic choice - and perhaps the smartest - is to stay at Ipswich.

After rejuvenating Ipswich following two decades of slumber, there's little McKenna can do to damage his reputation next season besides a catastrophic campaign or plunging into a Nathan Jones-style psychodrama. For his reputation, a courageous relegation where he sticks to his principles would be fine.

After all, Vincent Kompany agreed a shock deal to become the Bayern Munich manager on Wednesday night after leading Burnley to 19th place and five wins all season.

The flamboyant style with which he took them out of the Championship in 2022-23 has sustained his image and all Bayern are seeing is the potential. They need not worry about a lack of resources like a newly promoted side - though Burnley did spend £90m last summer, for the record.

Meanwhile, Rob Edwards is still the James Bond of football after a heroic promotion and variant relegation with Luton. Mr Cool's sheen is not sullied at all.

All of this provides encouragement to McKenna to stay at Ipswich. Have a go, bloody a few noses, play in front of an adoring fanbase, and see where you end up.

If he stays up, great. If he somehow pulls off a top-half finish like Sheffield United and Birmingham did on promotion, fantastic. And if you go down? Nobody will blame you unless there's a Derby County-style collapse.

Loyalty is something football fans prize. Look at the scorn when Jones abandoned Luton or Brendan Rodgers left Celtic, albeit those were mid-season calls. The eternal adoration of a fanbase is special.

The romantic choice is to stay at Ipswich, where he is adored by fans and is fully backed

He would only enhance his reputation by staying - barring disaster - and could surprise a few

He would only enhance his reputation by staying - barring disaster - and could surprise a few

Vincent Kompany has agreed to be Bayern Munich manager after getting Burnley relegated
Rob Edwards' battling relegation with Luton has not hurt his reputation either

Honourable relegation has hardly hurt the standings of Vincent Kompany and Rob Edwards - the former has agreed a deal to manage Bayern Munich

 

Move to Brighton - the 'stepping stone' option 

If McKenna is going to relocate, Brighton is the house built on wisdom.

There's a strong case to say they're the best-run club in the country under Tony Bloom, with a scouting network the envy of top sides. Sold your best player? Not to worry, here's a regen plucked from a South American schoolyard.

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Training-ground drones, TVs on golf buggies and canteen coaching: Kieran McKenna's meticulous methods impressed Jose and Ole, but will they get him the top job at Chelsea?

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Graham Potter got the Chelsea job on the back of his work with the Seagulls and Roberto De Zerbi, who left on Sunday, will presumably land in a similarly gilded court.

With finishes of 11th, sixth, and ninth going back for the last three seasons, Brighton are an established and aspirational Premier League side. No longer are the expectations just to stay up at the Amex. If McKenna goes there, he will be expected to deliver an aesthetic brand of football and at least challenge for the top half.

However, it is not the same pressure cooker as Manchester United or Chelsea, where failing to win a trophy is regarded as a mortal sin.

With training ground drones and TVs on golf buggies at the training ground, McKenna is a creative thinker and he will be afforded the chance to put his stamp on Brighton, who are always looking to set themselves apart. He is also a fan of squad leadership groups having a say on operations, the sort of power-to-the-players move you imagine Brighton would endorse if it worked.

Bloom also has a firm idea of Brighton's direction and the reason De Zerbi left was because he did not see eye to eye on their transfer policy. The Italian wanted players in their prime with medals, while Bloom wants either undiscovered Under-23s or veterans. McKenna will have to go along with their overarching plan.

Going to Brighton entails slightly more risk than staying at Ipswich, but the ceiling appears higher. Then again, as Potter found, did doing well at what some would consider a stepping-stone club buy him any credit in the big time?

Brighton are one of the best-run clubs in the country under Tony Bloom, with a great strategy

Brighton are one of the best-run clubs in the country under Tony Bloom, with a great strategy

Roberto De Zerbi is in line for a top job after his work at Brighton
Any credit he had at Brighton didn't save Potter at Chelsea

Roberto De Zerbi and Graham Potter boosted their reputations at Brighton, though that didn't help the latter on his eventual move to Chelsea

 

Go the Manchester United - a gigantic unknown quantity 

As Man United's former assistant manager, McKenna has the grace of 'knowing the club', the salvific badge that helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get and retain his job.

He was admired as Jose Mourinho's baby-faced lieutenant and won plaudits under Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

McKenna also fits the bill for what Sir Jim Ratcliffe is seemingly looking for if he ejects Erik ten Hag - young, attacking, able to construct a project but deliver success fast. Oh, and he's a boyhood fan.

What's not to like? Well, there are two major problems.

Number one is the wretched state of the club - a squad stinking with showboaters, has-beens, don't-want-to-be-theres, will-he-ever-turn-it-arounds, boy princes with generational wealth, and, in fairness, a few remarkable and admirable players as well.

Off-pitch it's even worse: Old Trafford's roof thinks it's Niagara Falls, Carrington lags behind the elite, their food hygiene has been slammed, and somewhere the Glazers are still hanging around. And so much more. It's a mess, and the club has not been properly tended to for years, letting down fans.

McKenna would have to deal with all of this and still get them competing for at least the Champions League and, sooner rather than later, elite honours. It's a daunging job, and were they not a top-six club, few would want it.

Secondly, for all he projects this image of long-termism, we don't actually know how lenient Sir Jim Ratcliffe will be. Todd Boehly spoke the sweet talk when he arrived at Chelsea, and he has turned out to be more ruthless and vindictive than Roman Abramovic.

Manchester United are plagued with problems on and off the pitch. Would it be a desirable job if not for their history?

Manchester United are plagued with problems on and off the pitch. Would it be a desirable job if not for their history?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe dangles the promise of long-termism, but how much can that be trusted?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe dangles the promise of long-termism, but how much can that be trusted?

Erik ten Hag is still in post at Man United and could yet keep his job beyond the summer

Erik ten Hag is still in post at Man United and could yet keep his job beyond the summer

Since INEOS took over at Nice in 2019, the French outfit have had six managers, if we include the six-month caretaker Didier Digard. That's not particularly ruthless but it's not permissive either.

If he goes to United, McKenna will be joining a club that has destroyed the reputations of its previous few managers, not knowing how long he will get, what players he will have, and how clean his lunch will be.

 

Chelsea - the daredevil option 

Dare to dance with Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali? Dare to join the circus where the masters are Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart?

As our very own Oliver Holt wrote, it feels as if Chelsea are addicted to chaos.

Read More

Chelsea are a bonfire of vanity, justifying axing Mauricio Pochettino with their amorphous drivel. Todd Boehly's yes-men are back to square one, writes OLIVER HOLT

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Their transfer policy, which has seen them spend more than £1billion in two years, is staggering. Exorbitant punts are taken on one-season wonderkids and when it doesn't work out immediately, out the dummy is spat.

Just when Mauricio Pochettino appeared to be making sense of it all, just when he was leading this merry band of talented young men to something higher, the head honchos at Stamford Bridge decided it would be fun to return to square zero.

Graham Potter could have thought he was special, rigged-out with a five-year contract and a reputation for growth. Thought he was different to Thomas Tuchel, who was sacked 15 months on from winning the Champions League.

Pochettino, credited for his long-term project at Tottenham, was probably one of the most ideal men for Boehly, who recently spoke of his vision.

Chelsea's Behdad Eghbali (left) and Todd Boehly (right) seem like they are addicted to chaos

Chelsea's Behdad Eghbali (left) and Todd Boehly (right) seem like they are addicted to chaos

Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent despite his progress and status

Mauricio Pochettino has left Chelsea by mutual consent despite his progress and status

[video_shortcode_video_html_5 src="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/22/2547730359247587793/1024x576_MP4_2547730359247587793.mp4" itemprop="image" content="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/22/2547730359247587793/1024x576_MP4_2547730359247587793.mp4" data-src="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/22/2547730359247587793/1024x576_MP4_2547730359247587793.mp4"]

Chelsea have a talented group of young players but their transfer policy has been chaotic

Chelsea have a talented group of young players but their transfer policy has been chaotic

'The number one thing is you have got to be patient. You are putting something together and expecting it to come together really quickly, but the reality is anything really good takes a little bit of time. Patience was always a thought for us,' he said at the Qatar Economic Forum. Who did he think would buy that days later?

The reality for McKenna is that if he joins Chelsea, there is every chance he will be jettisoned in November. That risk exists at any club, but it is amplified to the umpteenth degree in west London.

As Mail Sport has revealed, Chelsea want a 'puppet'. A malleable mouthpiece. McKenna will not get to be his own man in the way he can be at Ipswich, not with billions of pounds on the line.

Of course, Chelsea have an exciting squad, and with their recent heritage there is every reason to be overawed at the chance to manage them. Get it right and you have a fast pass wristband to the highest honours in football. Just don't expect to keep your job for too long after.

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