Having been cast as something of an outsider in the race to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager, Paris Saint Germain’s Mauricio Pochettino is now emerging as a hot favourite.
On the surface, there seems little reason why someone would give up managing one of the most star-studded teams in the world after just a season and a half – assuming the appointment was made at the end of this season.
But there are a number of factors at play that could indicate that Poch will, indeed, become the Red Devils’ next permanent manager.
1. Past approach
United considered appointing Pochettino in 2018 and in 2019 when he was sacked by Spurs, which demonstrates that he is someone the board would definitely consider.
One previous approach reportedly got as far as a clandestine meeting with a United official off a junction of the M25. In the end, the United board decided to stick with Solskjaer and Pochettino stayed unemployed until this January, when he joined PSG.
2. Pochettino has always wanted the role
Many column inches were dedicated to the 49-year-old’s desire to manage United even before he was sacked by Daniel Levy at Spurs.
The fact that he remained out of work for over a year as Solskjaer stumbled and stuttered at United is not proof per se that he was waiting for the job, but it could be seen as an open secret that he was keen to take the reins should the Norwegian have left.
As recently as yesterday, The Times also reported that ‘the Paris Saint-Germain manager has told friends that he would be interested in taking over at Old Trafford at the end of the season.’
3. Unhappy in Paris
The Mail’s Chris Wheeler has reported that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris:
‘It’s understood that Pochettino is prepared to leave PSG now because he is unhappy in the French capital,’ Wheeler writes.
‘The former Tottenham boss is living in a hotel while his family remain in London, and is said to be frustrated at managing a dressing-room with big egos like Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
‘Pochettino … is still admired by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
‘[He] will be in town on Tuesday ahead of PSG’s clash with Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, although it’s understood that United had still not made contact with him on Sunday night.’
The only doubt that this report raises is that if Poch’s reason for being unhappy in Paris is managing player egos, would he fare any better with the likes of Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo?
4. Sir Alex Ferguson’s choice
TalkSport’s Alex Crook claims that Sir Alex has thrown his weight behind Poch becoming the next permanent successor to his role.
‘Fergie wants Poch and I’m told Poch remains very keen to be #MUFC manager,’ Crook tweeted.
‘Clearly easier to make that happen in the summer than mid-season.’
Fergie wants Poch and I'm told Poch remains very keen to be #MUFC manager. Clearly easier to make that happen in the summer than mid-season.
— Alex Crook ⚽️🎙 (@alex_crook) November 21, 2021
An endorsement from the great man could go a long way to securing the appointment and it will at the very least guarantee one vote in the boardroom.
5. United’s official statement gives a clue
That issue Crook notes – of the appointment being easier at the end of the season – means that a caretaker boss would need to be appointed to steer United through the current campaign. And the club’s official statement about Solskjaer’s dismissal clearly states that will be the case. The statement reads:
‘Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season.’
This seems to rule out the appointment of a permanent manager until the summer. Whilst this could also mean the target is another coach who would not be able to leave his current club midseason, such as Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, it would appear to rule out the permanent appointment of someone who is currently available, such as Zinedine Zidane or Ralf Rangnick.
6. Proven Premier League and Champions League record
Finally, Pochettino is the only managerial candidate who has both extensive Premier League experience and who has managed a club to the final stages of the Champions League. Another name linked with the United job, Brendan Rodgers, joined the Foxes after their 2016/17 quarter final season and has not been able to steer them to the competition since. He does have group stage experience with both Celtic and Liverpool, but has never qualified for the playoffs.
On the other hand, Pochettino’s achievement in steering Spurs to the 2019 final was extremely impressive.
Of course, these six facts may not be reason enough to guarantee that Pochettino will become the next permanent manager of Manchester United. But taken together, they certainly suggest that he can be considered one of the front runners if not the nailed-on favourite.