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shortlist Mauricio Pochettino plays it cool on United job as speculation mounts

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Mauricio Pochettino is in Manchester for PSG's Champions League clash against City. Photo: Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino is in Manchester for PSG's Champions League clash against City. Photo: Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino is in Manchester for PSG's Champions League clash against City. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United have held talks with former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde about taking over as their interim manager, although he is understood to be one of a number of candidates being considered.

It comes as Mauricio Pochettino, who’s keen on being appointed on a permanent basis after the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, left the door open for a move despite insisting he was “happy” at Paris Saint-Germain.

Pochettino is in Manchester ahead of PSG’s Champions League group game against City. PSG have not been informed by Pochettino that he wants to leave but will attempt to ascertain his intentions after the game, although that may be inconclusive as United have not yet made a move.

PSG are also aware that Zinedine Zidane, who has been linked to the United job, is interested in becoming their head coach should there be a vacancy. PSG are relaxed about the situation and it is also unclear as to how much United want Pochettino.

United have drawn up a shortlist for an interim coach and are working on another list for a permanent manager with Michael Carrick in temporary charge, starting with last night’s 2-0 win in Villarreal.

Valverde has been out of work since being sacked by Barcelona in January last year following a two-and-a-half-year spell at the club, whom he guided to successive La Liga titles and a Copa del Rey triumph.

John Murtough, United’s football director, has discussed the interim position with Valverde and is also talking to other candidates. While he doesn’t have Premier League experience, Valverde is a seasoned coach and won league titles with Olympiakos, as well as managing Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Villarreal and Espanyol.

In their statement announcing Solskjaer’s departure, United outlined their surprising plan to bring in an interim until the end of the season before making a permanent appointment. That situation may, of course, change if United’s preferred first-choice takes over, and it is believed that Pochettino would be open to a move to Old Trafford now.

Despite Pochettino’s claims that he is content in Paris, it is understood that tensions have developed between him and PSG’s sporting director Leonardo, while it is already known he wants to return to the Premier League when his time at the club comes to an end.

The Argentinian was expecting to be questioned in his pre-match press conference ahead of the City tie and insisted: “I’m very focused on football. I’m not a kid; I’m not a child. I have spent my whole life playing football and now it’s my 12th year as a coach.

“We are in a business that the rumours are there, I completely understand what is going on – sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. This type of thing cannot distract. They are rumours.”

Pochettino insisted he wasn’t going to talk publically about any interest in him from United “because of my respect to my club Paris Saint-Germain, my respect to another club”, and touched on his famous lunch meeting with Alex Ferguson in 2016.

He added: “I’m not going to make the mistake at all. You know very well that everything we say will finish in a way. In the past, I said when I was in Espanyol my dream was to know, to meet Ferguson. All that until now is going to be misunderstood or is going to be out of context. I am so happy at Paris Saint-Germain and I am focused to try to be at my best, like we are doing.”

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Asked whether that meant he intended to see out his contract, which runs until June 2024, Pochettino was careful in his choice of words: “In football, it is about living the present, not about living the past or the future.”

PSG would allow Pochettino to go if he asked to leave, but only on their terms and would demand full compensation to be paid on the remainder of his contract once they have agreed their own plan of action.

United appear intent to take their time before making a decision and Pochettino is not the only manager under consideration for the permanent role. The club are considering Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, while Leicester City’s Brendan Rodgers has also been put forward.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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