You can bet good money that Mauricio Pochettino’s difficult end to life as Paris Saint-Germain manager has not gone unnoticed by the key decision-makers at Manchester United.
The Argentine seems to be losing the PSG dressing room, and losing his cool while he’s at it, hitting out at his players’ “unacceptable” performance in the 3-0 defeat against Monaco, which he described as “a disgrace in sporting terms”, as per Marca.
The job at the Parc des Princes may be a difficult one, with Ligue 1 success a foregone conclusion rather than a genuine achievement, and with everything hinged on Champions League success.
So far, Pochettino has already missed out on one league title last season, while his team crashed out of the Champions League in embarrassing style once again with their recent collapse at Real Madrid.
The key figures at Man Utd are unlikely to be keen on hiring someone who’d be arriving on the back of such failure, with Pochettino clearly seeming to go backwards since his hugely impressive spell at Tottenham, though even that ended poorly, even if some have forgotten it due to the disappointment of the managers who’ve come since.
PSG fans never quite warmed to Pochettino, with Ed of PSG Talk recently telling me he would “pack Pochettino’s bags and drive him to Manchester” himself after being surprised to see the links with the Old Trafford job.
Looking back, is there even a case for saying he got a bit lucky with a superb generation of players at Spurs, rather than being the catalyst behind their improvement in his time in north London?
It may have seemed at the time like Pochettino was the key behind Harry Kane bursting onto the scene, but now it looks more like he inherited a generational talent, who, if anything, has added more to his game since working under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, becoming a world class number ten at the same time as being a world class number nine.
The 50-year-old also happened to be in charge of Spurs at a time when several of the traditional big six were in transitional periods. When his side came close to winning the title in 2015/16, Chelsea were in disarray, finishing 10th, while Liverpool’s project under Jurgen Klopp had only just started, with the Reds finishing 8th, while Manchester United were labouring under Louis van Gaal, and even Manchester City were looking a bit flat in their final season under Manuel Pellegrini.
The following season, even though Chelsea bounced back and overtook Pochettino’s side, Arsenal and Man Utd were out of the top four, while Liverpool only just scraped in, while Man City only finished third as they were still finding their feet under Pep Guardiola.
By the time Pochettino guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2018/19, there were already signs of cracks starting to appear, with that run to the final masking some very poor league form at the time, while silverware continued to elude him.
It’s also well established that Pochettino has twice missed out on the United job, and I have it on good authority that, despite some figures at Old Trafford being big admirers of his, there have also been enough doubters to mean he’s never quite been in as strong a position to get the job as some media reports have made out.
We’re once again seeing Pochettino’s name come up, but there’s also the growing feeling that MUFC will ultimately opt for Ajax boss Erik ten Hag. The Sun are the latest outlet to state that he’s emerging as the favourite, and it’s easy to see why.
The Dutch tactician looks to be a Klopp or a Guardiola in the making, whereas the sense is that we may already have seen the upper limits of what Pochettino is capable of in management. While he undoubtedly impressed at Spurs, his best work came about five years ago now, and with those aforementioned caveats. There will have been justifiable doubts at the time if he was really a Manchester United manager in the making, and those doubters may now feel they’ve been proven right.