Aston Villa Football Club put an end to the Steven Gerrard era on Thursday night. They sacked the Liverpool legend following an abysmal 3-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage.

The loss away to Fulham was the final nail in the coffin for Gerrard. The team played uninspired football throughout the night, and perhaps they were lucky to escape with just a three-goal loss.

Villa were down 1-0 at halftime, and the match slipped away from there. Douglas Luiz received a red card in the 62nd minute, and Aleksandar Mitrović converted the ensuing penalty. A Tyrone Mings own goal sealed Villa's fate.

Following the match, Gerrard answered just four questions in his press conference. The Aston Villa board quickly fired the 42-year-old former midfielder following the press conference.

Aston Villa returns to the pitch on Sunday against Brentford. First-team coach Aaron Danks will lead the team for that match. However, who will be the man in charge following that game?

Before we take a look at potential replacements, let's get something out of the way. There are three names that have been floated as candidates: Thomas Tuchel, Thomas Frank, and Mauricio Pochettino.

While these names would make the list otherwise, numerous reports currently state these names are not interested in the job, and thus are excluded from this list.

With that out of the way, here are the three best candidates for the vacant Aston Villa manager position.

3 best candidates to replace Steven Gerrard as Aston Villa manager

3) Marcelo Gallardo, River Plate

Gallardo has spent the last eight years in charge of Argentinian giant River Plate. An eight-year spell that is coming to an official end in December.

Gallardo announced on October 13 that he would leave the club at the conclusion of his contract. It's no doubt a difficult decision for him, but he is grateful for the club and the supporters.

“It’s one of my most difficult and emotional decisions,” Gallardo told reporters. “I knew it would be tough for me to communicate this. I’m grateful (to the supporters) for the love that they’ve shown me and my entire staff.”

The 46-year-old will leave the club as the most successful manager in River Plate history. He's won 226 matches in charge, won the Argentina Primera Division in 2021, and claimed two Copa Libertadores victories in 2015 and 2018.

The victory in 2018 was one of the biggest football matches in the world. River Plate took on rivals Boca Juniors in a Superclasico for the ages.

Gallardo could potentially leave the club a few months early if Aston Villa made an approach. The club are interested in the South American manager, according to multiple reports.

Gallardo is very flexible with his tactics. He's known for using a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, and a 4-2-3-1 formation on occasion. Gallardo's system calls for high pressing and work rates. He demands pace in attack and recovery.

Whether the Argentine gaffer is interested in a move to the Midlands remains to be seen. However, his tactical flexibility and success in winning major honors surely cement him as one of the best options for Aston Villa.

2) Ruben Amorim, Sporting Lisbon

Amorim seemed a late entry into the fray when some betting sites listed him as the favorite for the job over Pochettino. However, the Portuguese coach is far from a poor option.

Many consider Amorim one of the best young managers in European football. It isn't hard to see why, either. The former midfielder took over Portuguese side Braga in 2019 and led them to a victory in the Taça da Liga. He lost just two games for the club, ironically to Steven Gerrard when the Liverpool legend managed Scottish club Glasgow Rangers.

Amorim moved to Sporting Lisbon in 2020 following his spell for Braga. The 37-year-old guided Lisbon to a fourth-place finish in the league and qualification to the Europa League third qualifying round.

2021-22 would be Amorim's best in charge of the club. He won Taça da Liga for the second consecutive season, defeating his former club in the process. Furthermore, Amorim led Lisbon to their first league title in 19 years.

Tactically, the 37-year-old Portuguese manager favors a 3-4-3 formation. He employs a narrow front three and has his full-backs provide width for the attack. He also utilizes younger players extremely well.

These tactics may put some Aston Villa supporters off, as they are strikingly similar in theory to Gerrard's. However, Amorim has found prolonged success at a higher level of play than Gerrard had prior to joining Villa.

This would be an incredibly ambitious appointment, and an expensive one as well. However, Amorim may be ready to make the jump to the Premier League.

1) Unai Emery, Villarreal

Emery has experience in the Premier League. He previously managed Arsenal from 2018 to 2019. Emery has found success back in his native Spain, but he is reportedly open to talks with the Midlands club.

The 50-year-old Emery is one of the most successful Europa League managers in recent memory. He's won the competition on four occasions, most recently with Villarreal in 2020-21 in a thrilling victory over Manchester United.

Emery also managed one of the best clubs in the world, Paris Saint Germain. He won Ligue 1 in 2017-18, as well as the Coupe de France in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Emery recently masterminded an inspiring Champions League run last season for The Yellow Submarine. They made it to the semi-final of the competition after knocking out German giants Bayern Munich.

Tactically, Emery likes to employ a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2, depending on the opposition. He relies a lot on the counterattack but has shown the ability to play a more possession-based style of football.

The 50-year-old Spaniard likes to use two strikers in attack, which is perfect for Aston Villa currently. He also values intensity in the players he plays on the pitch any given match.

While it may be a bit of a stretch, Emery to Aston Villa isn't entirely out of the question. He would be the best candidate for the job, and would receive a second chance at success in the Premier League.