These are testing times for Manchester United and their fans. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left the club after multiple heavy defeats at the hands of their opponents in the Premier League. Succession planning will be difficult. But there is a caveat. Mauricio Pochettino, the current PSG manager, has expressed his interest indirectly through his representatives to various media outlets regarding his preference towards the English Premier League.
In the latest edition of United Journal’s transfer column, I will be covering all the latest reliable reports from English and French media based on what is being reported as of now(from the time of writing). I didn’t expect to write another transfer-related pamphlet in November, not even in the winter transfer period due to the sloth-like manner in which the hierarchy at United’s Mayfair offices in London operates.
We have got a few pointers to cover before concluding the likelihood of Pochettino ending up as the next manager at Old Trafford.
What is Manchester United’s view towards appointng the next managerial appointment?
Ok. Now, let’s start with the most complicated nerve ending of the club’s decision-making axon. Ed Woodward will continue as Executive Vice-Chairman till the season ends. Earlier, that wasn’t the case. Woodward had allegedly resigned after Super League-related conflicts. But the Glazer family has handed over the latest managerial recruitment drive to Woodward, his successor Richard Arnold(Managing Director), and John Murtough(Football Director).
The board consisting of the owners and some of the above-mentioned executives has accepted the fact that none of their desired managerial candidates would be available mid-season. This has led to another turmoil when it comes to making the right decisions after not biting the bullet to make a change after the Liverpool defeat. to be brutally honest, they failed to think about a contingency plan if things didn’t end up working this season.
In order to tackle this capitulation at the boardroom level, Ed Woodward, the Glazer family’s faithful servant, appointed Michael Carrick as United’s caretaker manager, assisted by Mick Phelan and Kieran McKenna. Meanwhile, as of today, the club has decided to observe the games coached by the collegiate system controlled by Carrick and appoint an interim manager after the forthcoming games. But, plans may change with the availability of the club’s desired options in the market. The root cause of all these complicated problems mentioned above is the club’s incompetency and lack of succession planning.
Who are the managers considered as Interim options by the club?
There are a few names being thrown around but as we currently speak, none of them have been seen as clear alternatives. I have picked up a few names based on the solidity from the latest that we heard from various media sources.
Shortlist for Interim Succession at MUFC:
- Laurent Blanc
- Ralf Rangnick
- Julen Lopetegui
The most likely appointment out of these names is the former Manchester United defender and French legend Laurent Blanc, but the latest reports have stressed the fact that the Frenchman wants a long-term role because of the uncertainty of getting a job as his current managerial position is safe in Qatar. Ralf Ragnick, former technical director at RB Leipzig would be interested but has reservations about his decision-making powers at the club. John Murtough sees Rangnick as an ideal candidate but will ask for his throne at the end of the German manager’s interim spell. As per various media outlets, Julen Lopetegui, former Real Madrid manager was offered by Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes and is seen as a good candidate in financial terms due to his significantly lower buyout at £5m.
Mauricio Pochettino’s interest to coach Manchester United
Pochettino has been under United’s radar since the Louis van Gaal era, while the Argentine was coaching a Southampton team with young left-back Luke Shaw. According to a few journalists from Times, Mauricio Pochettino leaked to his friends about his intention to manage Manchester United. But from United’s end, it was evident from the club statement that they wanted to look for a permanent appointment only in the summer.
It is thought that Sir Alex Ferguson and Ed Woodward highly regard Pochettino as the next man to take United forward with the foundations that Ole build. The main reason due to which Pochettino regards the Red Devils as his next destination is because of the agenda towards a long-term project, which he looked after at Spurs but the lack of silverware has always been a burden in terms of managing a club with the pedigree of Manchester United.
Lately, Pochettino has been unhappy at PSG due to a couple of reasons. Some of them are as follows:
- Friction in professional relationship with PSG’s Sporting Director, Leonardo.
- Less power in decision-making off the pitch with regards to transfers, appointments, budgets and club facilites. Sole responsibility is on the pitch matters only.
- Dressing room ego management with big players such as Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.
- Family members are not present in Paris and are currently settled in London except for one of his son Sebastiano Pochettino, who is PSG’s first-team fitness coach and sports scientist. Both of them are living at a hotel in Paris.
Latest: Pochettino wants the job now
Nex day morning, the message from British media was that Mauricio Pochettino’s desire was to move away from PSG as soon as possible with the Manchester United job up for grabs. The news was broken by the very reliable Sami Mokbel, Chief Football Reporter of Daily Mail, and Chris Wheeler, Manchester United correspondent of Daily Mail. Things started to appear different from the time this update was reported.
As of Sunday, no contact was made between Manchester United and Pochettino but the mutual interests were known publicly. Matt Barlow from Daily Mail had also suggested that Mauricio Pochettino would be interested due to the quality of competition and the seductive possibility of being the one who restores pride at United as they are one of the clubs he has dreamed of managing. In addition, TalkSport revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson had talked to the Argentine’s advisers to know about his intention to manage United because the board members confidently believed that Pochettino could be available in the summer.
The reliable Simon Stone from BBC came out with information stating that United’s plans on bringing on an interim might completely change if they’re willing to appoint Pochettino now. He reiterated that Pochettino has issues in terms of having autonomy with footballing issues at PSG. Then there were even doubts coming from potential interim candidates’ camp that they wouldn’t be strongly interested in a short-term role till season end.
Later, these reports were backed by other major outlets from Britain. But the most important aspect to consider will be the timing and costs of the appointment, which we’ll look into next.
Possible timeframes of appointment and Pochettino’s buyout
Since Manchester United operates passively and takes opinions from various members of the board seriously, the final decision will take time. Some of the key pointers regarding succession using Pochettino as the candidate in the current scenario mid-season will involve various challenges. I will list down a few from the reports that I read:
- Timeframe of appointments and consensus on the official contact with PSG
- Availability of suitable managerial replacements for PSG
- Costs involved in purchase such as buyout
- PSG’s performance in Champions League
The timing will be tricky but could be managed if United makes moves smartly and decisively. Dan Kilpatrick, Chief Football Writer at Evening Standard revealed that PSG might be willing to let Pochettino leave if discussions happened during Ligue 1’s winter break period from December 22nd to January 7th as it would allow PSG to formulate a plan to appoint a strong candidate such as Zinedine Zidane as their next manager.
When it comes to PSG’s next UCL fixture at the Etihad against Manchester City, it would certainly play as a parameter that could decide Pochettino’s fate to carry the team forward. But, that result alone won’t bring any imminent changes in my opinion.
Zidane’s willingness to move to the French capital will also accelerate the dynamics of the way things are moving at both clubs. The former Real Madrid manager prefers to coach the French National Team next but he remains a highly respected figure among executives at Qatar Sports Investments especially with the Emir of Qatar with whom Zidane had a meeting with regards to being an ambassador of the next World Cup help at Qatar.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s decision will be very crucial due to his exuberant nature in administrating various footballing decisions at PSG, ECA, and QSI. If Zidane isn’t willing to move, Al-Khelaifi won’t allow Pochettino to leave mid-season. Al-Khelaifi’s bold stance and decision-making were evident from the Mbappe saga last summer.
As per David McDonnell from Mirror, buying out Pochettino’s contract will cost around £10m but those figures will be halved by next summer due to one year left on his contract after that. This is a crucial factor that could push United’s incompetent board to look towards next summer thinking about the costs that they had to payoff Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Similar figures were confirmed by a French Football expert from CBSSports, Jonathan Johnson, who works closely with PSG.
French media: Contact established between Pochettino and Manchester United
Santi Aouna from FootMercato reported initially from France that Mauricio Pochettino’s representatives met with Manchester United recently. He confirmed the info from England that Pochettino’s wish is to leave PSG for Manchester United mid-season.
But the reliable sources from RMCSport confirmed that no official contact has been made between Manchester United and PSG. They didn’t deny the fact that Pochettino was unhappy at the club but for now, he’ll manage the next game against Manchester City,
Abdellah Boulma revealed that Zidane does not rule out the idea of returning to France and the former Madrid coach was recently approached by PSG owners. Later, James Ducker and Jason Burt from Telegraph reiterated this fact and talked about the friction that was rowing between PSG and Pochettino. They revealed that PSG will assess the situation after the City game.
After a few hours, the wheels started turning from PSG’s end. Julien Laurens covering French Football especially PSG for ESPN revealed exclusively that PSG has made contact with Zinedine Zidane in case of Mauricio Pochettino’s departure. Similar details started to come out of other journalists such as Jonathan Johnson. Laurens stated that Zidane’s pragmatic approach and management style are perfectly suited to the Parisian side. Sources from France also told him that Zidane would be interested to manage if the PSG jobs becomes available.
Final Verdict- Will it happen or not?
As I mentioned earlier, Manchester United’s willingness and decisiveness to deal with a suitable candidate will decide Pochettino’s fate. Negotiation with PSG would be difficult. But in my opinion, United has an open net to score since Zidane is a candidate favored by PSG to lead them to UCL success. French media have been serious about this matter and haven’t dismissed that anything is possible. They have confirmed most of the pieces of information with that of English media. Now time will tell who blinks first. Nothing is imminent but things can change quickly if there is the intention to change from either of the sides. Also, it remains to be seen if Carrick puts in a masterclass and the Glazers turn adamant about appointing an interim first.