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wanted man Manchester United's move for Mauricio Pochettino could save PSG €18m

Race to find permanent manager hots up during short international window

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Mauricio Pochettino is in the running to be the next Manchester United manager. Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino is in the running to be the next Manchester United manager. Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino is in the running to be the next Manchester United manager. Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Paris Saint-Germain could be spared a compensation bill of at least €18m if Mauricio Pochettino was handed the Manchester United job.

United kickstarted a formal interview process on Monday when they met with Ajax coach Erik ten Hag ahead of planned talks with Pochettino and the other main candidates for the post, Julen Lopetegui and Luis Enrique.

Like Ten Hag, who is expected to leave Ajax at the end of the season, Pochettino has ambitions to manage United and, at this stage, the former Spurs coach is expected to provide the stiffest competition to the Dutchman for the role.

Pochettino is expected to leave PSG in one form or another following the club’s disappointing exit to Real Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16 this month.

But the French club could avoid a huge pay-off to Pochettino if United swooped for the Argentine and the prospect of him being sacked was averted.

It is understood that Pochettino –who has just over 15 months remaining on his contract – and his staff would be entitled to a compensation package of between £15m and £20m (€24m) if jettisoned. Contrary to some suggestions, there is not believed to be a release clause in Pochettino’s deal this summer.

United are determined to have a new manager lined up as soon as possible so he is ready to take charge almost as soon as the current season is over.

There is recognition at Old Trafford that the international break represents a short window of opportunity to speak formally to targets who are currently employed at other clubs, with Ten Hag understood to be the first of those to be interviewed.

That interview – which was conducted with Ajax’s blessing – is understood to have been positive, but United also want to hear what the likes of Pochettino, Sevilla’s Lopetegui and Spain coach Luis Enrique have to say and want to see the process through.

With Enrique understood to be committed to managing Spain at the World Cup finals in Qatar in November and December, it is difficult to envisage how he could be in a position to take over at Old Trafford unless United agreed to a job share for seven months or Ralf Rangnick’s interim position was extended or another stop-gap brought in. Enrique’s Spain play Albania on Saturday and Iceland three days later.

Ten Hag and Pochettino appear to have garnered the most support among the club’s different decision-makers to this point but United sources insist they remain open-minded.

It is thought that Ten Hag would want to bring his assistant at Ajax, Mitchell van der Gaag, with him to Old Trafford if he were offered the job.

Ajax are braced for Ten Hag to depart this summer. Ten Hag was not consulted over the recent appointment of former Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to Ajax’s technical staff – something he would ordinarily have been asked for input over – in a sign that the club are already planning for life after him.

Having rebuilt Ajax’s squad twice, there is little expectation of Ten Hag doing that for a third time, and with six of the senior squad that lost to Benfica in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 defeat out of contract this summer, there could be a lot of change to come at the Dutch club.

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Meanwhile, Paul Pogba, who is believed to be attracting interest from Premier League clubs as well as from overseas, again raised doubts about his future at United with his contract due to expire in June. The Frenchman is prepared to bide his time before making a decision but admitted his past six years at Old Trafford following his return to the club in 2016 had not gone to plan. United will go a fifth consecutive season without winning anything and now face a battle to finish in the top four.

“You have to be honest, the last five seasons have not satisfied me – really not at all,” Pogba told French newspaper Le Figaro. “This year it is dead, we won’t win anything. Whether it is with Manchester United or at another club, I want to win trophies.”

Pogba also questioned his role at United, in stark contrast to his situation with France, where he said he enjoyed a strong working relationship with Didier Deschamps.

“It’s simple with France, I play and I play in my position – I know my role and I feel the confidence of the coach and the players,” he said.

“It’s normal to feel a difference at Manchester United because it’s hard to be consistent when you often have a change to your position, or the team system, or your partners.

“I get along very well with (Deschamps), he gave me a role that I know, but at Manchester United do I really have a role? I ask the question but I don’t have an answer.”

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