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Manchester United: The reasons why Mauricio Pochettino wants to quit PSG


Manchester United have flirted with Mauricio Pochettino in the past, but their on-and-off romance could finally turn into something serious with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out of the picture. 

The former Tottenham boss looks unhappy with his current partnership at PSG, and joining the Red Devils would be a much more suitable match. Now we know the Argentine is keen on moving to Old Trafford – and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be – it’s easy to see why Pochettino has laboured through his first ten months in the French capital.

As a former captain in the French capital, it seemed like a fairly logical appointment on the surface, but in actual fact there are several sticking points that will grate with the 49-year-old – whose family are based in London after five years at Spurs.

He was heavily linked with a return to the club in the summer before it appeared impossible to get him out of his contract. But Sportsmail revealed that Pochettino would be prepared to quit PSG now and take over at United after growing unhappy in Paris.

Cooped up in a hotel while he attempts to lead a glitzy squad of superstars to glory, the pressure is firmly on Pochettino to deliver. Many see PSG as an easy job – but there are several factors why it appears to be a poisoned chalice. 

Mauricio Pochettino wants to leave PSG after becoming unsettled in the French capital 

The Argentine wants to join Manchester United and would be wiling to walk out on PSG now

The Argentine wants to join Manchester United and would be wiling to walk out on PSG now

He wants to move back to England, where his wife Karina (L) still lives with his children

He wants to move back to England, where his wife Karina (L) still lives with his children

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE OR BUST

Let’s face it, PSG have an obssession with winning Europe’s elite prize. It’s the only major trophy they are yet to lift since the Qatar Investment Authority started plotting their supremacy in 2012.

After a summer spree like no other, the club’s owners will expect – and demand – Pochettino to go further than his predecessors and deliver in Europe, and so does the rest of the footballing world. 

When the club started bringing in the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and finally Lionel Messi, the whispers started echoing around social media. 

‘If he doesn’t win the Champions League with that team, he’s finished’. 

Pochettino faces immense pressure to deliver the Champions League this season after the club splashed out on five high profile arrivals

Pochettino faces immense pressure to deliver the Champions League this season after the club splashed out on five high profile arrivals

Pochettino spoke this week about the pressures of winning the Champions League. There is a lot of heat to win the illustrious prize him for a manager whose only major trophy in his career is the French Cup.

‘Being honest we don’t feel the pressure or stress [any different to] when we were in Tottenham, Southampton or Espanyol, the only thing changed is the expectation,’ he said. ‘This season is massive. All the people believe we should be winning the games before we play.  

‘The feeling is about winning the Champions League. And if not, you will feel that you have failed. For us it’s different because we are not doing drama. 

Many feel the 49-year-old will be a 'failure' if he doesn't win the trophy with his talented team

Many feel the 49-year-old will be a ‘failure’ if he doesn’t win the trophy with his talented team

‘We are capable and if all the players are committed to the project then, for sure, we are going to be close to winning the Champions League.

‘[But] people think like it’s an obligation to win. In football, if you play like you feel there is an obligation, it’s difficult to be successful, to win.’ 

BALANCING THE MOST GLAMOROUS SQUAD EVER ASSEMBLED 

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe – in the same team? You would expect this Ligue 1 season to be cakewalk. The domestic campaign will be – the team are already 11 points clear at the top, but there was never any doubt about winning the title.

But when it comes to integrating five big name signings, however, and finding balance in a squad resembling the Harlem Globetrotters, that has been Pochettino’s greatest challenge in Paris.

Many were shocked to see Messi, Neymar and Mbappe fail to register a shot on target in PSG’s 2-0 loss to Rennes last month. The quality of France’s top flight has often been slammed and there has been talk of the star trio scoring for fun. 

Neymar (L), Kylian Mbappe (C) and Lionel Messi (R) have not fully clicked as an attacking trio

Neymar (L), Kylian Mbappe (C) and Lionel Messi (R) have not fully clicked as an attacking trio

They do have 15 goals combined, but they haven’t formed the devastating attack force that had football fans whipped up into a frenzy just thinking about. 

The truth is, it’s not as simple as just plonking players on pitch and saying ‘play’. Are the three of them even compatible together? Do they have too similar qualities? Are there too many big names stuffed into one strike force, all competing to out-do each other? There are many factors to consider. 

Pochettino already has a big problem trying to figure out how to get them singing from the same hymn sheet, with Messi in particularly struggling to sparkle having scored just once in Ligue 1 – and the coach was heavily criticised for subbing him off during the win over Lyon in September.

He discussed the conundrum in detail this week.

‘[Either of] these three players can be the king of any club in the world. But you have three kings on the same club: three kings with different needs, who need different things,’ he explained. 

‘Mbappe needs space to run and high tempo in the transition. Neymar needs to have the ball, feel the ball and sometimes he needs to drive the ball. And Messi needs maybe another tempo in the game. It’s not easy to put all that together. 

Pochettino has admitted it is 'not easy' to get his 'three kings' flourishing together

Pochettino has admitted it is ‘not easy’ to get his ‘three kings’ flourishing together

Messi has scored one Ligue 1 goal and Pochettino was criticised for subbing him in September

Messi has scored one Ligue 1 goal and Pochettino was criticised for subbing him in September

‘That is why we are working in trying to find the right way to play, so that Mbappe feels comfortable, Neymar and Messi feel comfortable and the rest of the team understand that sometimes we need to increase the level of the tempo of the game and sometimes we can play on the space. Sometimes we need to play more horizontal and build in the slow possession. It’s an amazing challenge, which we are enjoying.

And he knows solving that challenge is the key to taking PSG to the big time and winning the Champions League. Even then he still has issues – two world class goalkeepers battling it out and Gigi Donnarumma currently unhappy after being benched for Keylor Navas. 

One of the greatest centre-backs in recent memory who can’t get fit – Sergio Ramos still hasn’t played a game for PSG since joining from Real Madrid, and when he does the former Southampton and Spurs coach will have another dilemma. Who comes out? Or do you make him wait patiently? 

AT ODDS WITH BIG EGOS 

There was something puzzling about Pochettino taking the PSG job earlier this year. How will a coach who has made his name as a manager with honest values – who relishes unearthing young talent and playing hungry, home grown stars – fare when he’s forced to play big egos all in the same team, with the expectation of winning every single match?

It’s a far cry from his rather cosy predicament at both Southampton and Tottenham, where he was tasked with building a project, with an underachieving group of youngsters who he built a relationship with. 

How do you coach a team filled to the brim with World Cup, Champions League and Ballon D’or contenders, while maintaining the same philosophies you have as a manager? The PSG job seems totally at odds with Pochettino’s style, yet how could he turn the opportunity down?

Pochettino has had to deal with a team full of egos and high profile players such as Neymar (R)

Pochettino has had to deal with a team full of egos and high profile players such as Neymar (R)

In Paris he can’t afford to give many academy prospects the chance to shine, because he must win it all. 

We know Pochettino wasn’t backed in the transfer market at Tottenham, but he usually flourished regardless – taking Spurs to a Champions League final without making a single signing. 

When asked if he wanted arrivals during one January transfer window, he once responded that he would rather give an opportunity to a player in the youth set-up.

He unearthed Harry Kane and turned him into a world class forward – often played with English centre midfielder Harry Winks and transformed Kyle Walker into one of the best right backs in the league. At Southampton, he helped bring Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez to the spotlight.

Of course, at Manchester United there would be no shortage of egos – he would have to grapple with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. But there would also be an opportunity to build something and certainly more patience to bed in his ideals.

He has preferred to work with young talent at previous clubs and unearthed Harry Kane

He has preferred to work with young talent at previous clubs and unearthed Harry Kane 

His football ideologies seem at odds with the job he is being asked to do at Paris Saint Germain

His football ideologies seem at odds with the job he is being asked to do at Paris Saint Germain

United is a club known for bringing through exciting young players and Pochettino would have the pick of the bunch to imprint his philosophy on the place, combining them with an already talented squad. 

While many of us reckon we could manage PSG, the allure of creating something special with United must be a stronger pull than juggling what can only be seen as a team of individuals in France. 

BATTLING WITH FOOTBALL POLITICS 

Pochettino is not the first manager to struggle with the demands of the PSG job. The man who came before him – Thomas Tuchel, now flourishing in the Premier League at Chelsea – told of a challenge that was bigger than football. 

The German fell out with sporting director Leonardo at the Parc de Princes, and was sacked just six months after reaching the Champions League final. 

On the eve of his axing he shed light on what it was really like to coach PSG, and said there were ‘influences that go far beyond the interest of the team’.

His predecessor Thomas Tuchel spoke of 'influences beyond the interest of the team' after falling out with sporting director Leonardo (L)

His predecessor Thomas Tuchel spoke of ‘influences beyond the interest of the team’ after falling out with sporting director Leonardo (L)

‘In all honesty, in the first six months I was like, ‘Am I still a coach or am I a sports politician, a sports minister? Where is my role as a coach at such a club now?’ 

‘Sometimes it’s very easy, sometimes a big challenge, because a club like PSG has many influences that go far beyond the concentrated interests of the team. 

‘I don’t know if I still have to go higher, higher, higher. I just love football. And at a club like this, it’s not always just football.’ 

Tuchel’s words all but sealed his departure, and it seems his sacking was a long time in the making after his relationship with Leonardo broke down. 

‘The separation was natural,’ the Brazilian said. ‘The year before, there had been complicated situations that destabilized the environment. It’s human that the points of view were different; it was difficult to establish a relationship between us.’

Pochettino will face a similar task after coming into an institution with a clear road map under Leonardo and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (R)

Pochettino will face a similar task after coming into an institution with a clear road map under Leonardo and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (R)

Tuchel had also made it clear his disatisfaction with the club letting both Edison Cavani and Thiago Silva leave on free transfers without adequate replacements, and Leonardo was far from happy with the former Dortmund boss going public with it.

‘We did not like the comments, the club did not like them,’ Leonardo said after a win over Angers. ‘Me, personally, I didn’t like it. If someone is not happy, it’s easy, we talk, there is no problem. But if we decide to stay, we must respect the club’s policy, the house rule and the club’s approach.’ 

These are the outside influences and problems facing Pochettino in Paris after arriving at a club with a clear road map and vision – regardless of who is in charge. Combined with the pressure to deliver success instantly, it could all prove a bridge too far to make his time with the club a long term stay. 



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