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Mauricio Pochettino‘s name has been touted for the Manchester United job for so long that as his Paris Saint-Germain team capitulated spectacularly in Madrid on Wednesday, thoughts drifted not the future of the French club, but to the result’s impact on the future of the Old Trafford hotseat.
Pochettino has been the favourite to take over from interim boss Ralf Rangnick since the German was given the job until the end of the season back in November, with Ajax manager Erik ten Hag his main rival.
After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, United made tentative enquiries to PSG about the availability of Pochettino, but were told that they would not let the manager leave mid-season.
The former Tottenham boss is known to be seeking a return to the Premier League, having been unhappy at PSG for some time, and it was expected that he would join United at the end of the season, perhaps even after winning the Champions League.
Mauricio Pochettino was powerless to prevent PSG from capitulating against Real Madrid
Sportsmail reported last month that United’s players are in favour of Pochettino taking over at the end of the season, in preference to Ten Hag, who has been brushing up on his English in the hope of landing the job.
Wednesday night’s seismic result, however, will have come as a huge blow to Pochettino’s ego.
Having bossed the last-16 tie from kick off in Paris until half-time in Madrid, with the 2-0 aggregate scoreline flattering Real if anything, Pochettino watched in disbelief as a catalogue of defensive howlers saw Karim Benzema score a hat-trick in just 17 minutes to send PSG crashing out.
Pochettino could do nothing. He brought on Idrissa Gueye to try and stem the flow after Benzema’s first goal, but that had no effect. Then he sent on Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler as they chased an equaliser, but they had little impact.
Karim Benzema celebrates on his way to a hat-trick as Lionel Messi looks on dejected
PSG’s Qatari president Nasser El-Khelaifi was said to be fuming after the match, directing his anger at Dutch referee Danny Makkelie and his team for the perceived injustice of Real’s first goal, when Benzema was adjudged not to have fouled goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma as he gave the ball away in his own box.
Pochettino blamed the officials too, but he and sporting director Leonardo will be the victims of El-Khelaifi’s rage in the long-term once his anger at the officials has subsided. Le Parisien reported in the aftermath that both will be sacked.
Benzema could have been penalised, but that does not legislate for the kamikaze nature of PSG’s defending for all three of the veteran striker’s well-taken goals. The buck for that, it could be argued, stops with the manager. That is not a theory that United legend Rio Ferdinand subscribes too, however.
Working as a pundit for BT Sport on Wednesday night, Ferdinand was keen stress that PSG’s problems are systemic and not the fault of Pochettino or any of his predecessors.
Pochettino has had to fit Neymar (left), Kylian Mbappe (right) and Messi into the same team
ODDS FOR NEXT MAN UNITED MANAGER*
Mauricio Pochettino: Evens
Erik ten Hag: 15/8
Antonio Conte: 13/2
Ralf Rangnick: 12/1
Diego Simeone: 14/1
Carlo Ancelotti: 16/1
Didier Deschamps: 20/1
Zinedine Zidane: 20/1
Simone Inzaghi: 20/1
*odds to be Manchester United manager at the start of 2022-23, provided by Betfair
‘This isn’t just a one season episode, this is something that continually happens every single year,’ he said. ‘[It is a] dysfunctional team, I think that sums it up quite well about the way that they play. So I don’t think you can really point the finger too much at Pochettino when this has happened season after season.’
Ferdinand went on to highlight the issue Pochettino has had in trying to accomodate superstar ‘passengers’ Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the same team.
‘Each of those players are players that you would probably allow as a one-off in your team to be a passenger and you all work for that player,’ he went on. ‘To have three of them, makes it near on impossible to do it at the top level. You can do it and get away with it in the French league like they do every year, they win the league.
‘But at this level, to carry three players that aren’t going to be able to work to the intensity that you probably need to win a tournament like the Champions League is very, very, very difficult.’
Ferdinand’s theory may explain why Pochettino’s odds for the United job were in fact slashed after PSG’s defeat. It seems the defeat will stick more to the club and the players than the manager.
A word of warning, however. If Pochettino wants to avoid a club with systemic problems, where managers struggle to make an impact on a playing squad full of massive egos, Manchester United may not be the job for him.
Source: DailyMail Sports