Mauricio Pochettino is back on the agenda at Manchester United following intriguing reports about his situation at Paris Saint-Germain.
Pochettino has only been in charge of PSG for just over a year, but already he is running into the same problems that signalled the end for his predecessor.
Thomas Tuchel was dismissed in December 2020, shortly after he snapped in a press conference, saying he was “tired” of the unrelenting media glare and having to act more like “a sports politician or sports minister than a coach”.
In public, Pochettino has steadfastly stuck to the line that he is happy and enjoying the experience of managing the most star-studded team on the planet.
“I’m good in Paris. I know well, all my life as a player or coach I have experienced this kind of situation,” he said in November following widespread reports about his unhappiness and links to United.
“Things are happening, it’s not my responsibility. What I’m going to say if you ask me, I’m good in Paris.”
But there was a sense that the former Tottenham manager was protesting too much.
“I said to you all, my contract is until 2023,” he added. “It’s for one season more. I don’t say anything different. I am very happy at Paris Saint-Germain. It’s a fact. I am happy in Paris.”
It was therefore unsurprising to see fresh reports about the growing strain behind the scenes at PSG emerge this week following a damaging defeat by penalties by Nice in the French Cup on Monday.
Le Parisien have reported that PSG have already approached other managers, including Zinedine Zidane, to gauge their interest in taking over from the beleaguered Pochettino.
And, according to Foot Mercato, he is ‘fed up’ with the constant questioning about his management, the level of his players and the lack of influence over transfer policy.
Just like Tuchel, his relationship with influential sporting director Leonardo is understood to be tetchy.
All of this is hugely problematic in the short term for Pochettino. But it undoubtedly adds up to good news for Manchester United.
The Athletic reported recently that United were ready to step up their recruitment process for their next manager.
As things stand, the shortlist is: Pochettino, Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, Spain boss Luis Enrique and Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui.
You could make a case for any of those managers, who all have extensive experience in top European jobs, but Pochettino has an edge over his potential rivals.
Legendary United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is a known fan of Pochettino and has previously advocated for his arrival at Old Trafford.
Unlike the others, Pochettino has vast experience of the Premier League, through his six years spent with Southampton and Spurs, and has the capability to deal with a dressing room filled with egos.
One of the frequent criticisms of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was that he was too nice and too frequently told players what they wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to be told.
Pochettino developed close relationships with his Tottenham players, but showed he had the stomach to make tough decisions.
United appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season knowing they wanted the German to provide a bridge between Solskjaer and the long-term future.
The succession plan leads to a manager who can build upon Rangnick’s efforts to implement a more progressive pressing system. That man can be Pochettino.
Reports from France suggest that Pochettino could be sacked by PSG if he doesn’t get past Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16. That eventuality could come to pass after the second leg on March 9.
If the suggestions of Pochettino’s unhappiness in Paris, away from his London-based family, are true then the 49-year-old might welcome the sack.
He has frequently flirted with United from afar. Now it seems as though fate might be bringing the two parties together.
United should roll with it and put the succession plan in motion early.