It may seem like a story for conspiracy theorists, but there is mounting evidence, albeit circumstantial, that executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is lining up Mauricio Pochettino to take over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager at the end of the season.
Talk Sport’s Phil Brown has stated in a podcast that United ‘have been talking to Pochettino for a few weeks now … through an intermediary’, that ‘he doesn’t want the job until the end of the season’ and that he ‘doesn’t want the job unless certain requirements have been met’. Brown claims to have an extremely reliable and credible source.
Brown’s claims come just hours after it was announced that Barcelona have sacked head coach Ernesto Valverde and replaced him with Quique Setien.
This is significant because Pochettino had been reported to be on a three-man shortlist to replace Valverde, with some papers claiming he was top of that list. The fact that Setien has been appointed so quickly might suggest that Poch was not interested in the Barça job.
It’s all ifs, ands, buts, and maybes, but why would the Argentinian say no to at least talks with the Blaugrana unless he had already agreed a deal elsewhere?
Then there is Manchester United’s u-turn on transfer targets to consider. Last summer it was reported that they were not interested in signing Sporting’s Bruno Fernandes, yet Mauricio Pochettino came desperately close to signing him for Spurs. Now United are interested in the 25-year-old. Likewise United have in the last few weeks suddenly shown an interest in Ajax’s Donny Van de Beek, a player that the Argentinian is known to have pursued while at Tottenham in the summer. Could it be that Ed Woodward has torn up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s shopping list and replaced it with that of Pochettino?
If indeed Woodward has struck a deal with Pochettino to replace Solskjaer at the end of the season, it would not be the first time that the executive vice chairman has signed United’s next manager behind the current manager’s back. In early 2016 Woodward lined up José Mourinho to take over from Louis Van Gaal and sacked the FA Cup-winning manager immediately after the season ended.