IAN LADYMAN: Mauricio Pochettino was on the charm offensive as he faced the media amid Manchester United interest… it proves he has the face that fits for Old Trafford
- Mauricio Pochettino has been heavily linked with the vacant Man United job
- He was in the city on Tuesday ahead of PSG’s European clash against Man City
- In his press conference before the game he insisted he is happy in France
- But he refused to flatly deny that he would take over at Old Trafford
From Mauricio Pochettino, there was hardly a moment of hesitation, a tumbling over words or a false step. The PSG manager is the preferred candidate to take over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and was not about to do anything to entirely dismiss the notion that he may take the job.
Sitting in a small press conference room across town from Old Trafford at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, Pochettino in many ways presented himself as any credible United manager should. Confident, assured and as in control as anybody ever can be in a situation like this. If United had mirrored any of that on the field in recent weeks they may not have found themselves looking for a fourth manager in a little over eight years in the first place.
Good managers find themselves here from time to time and there is an art to how you react. Protest too much about another club’s interest and you end up looking like a fibber when you walk out at a later date. Say too little and it can all get a little uncomfortable for everyone.
Mauricio Pochettino faced the press amid numerous stories linking him with the Man Utd job
Pochettino could leave his team of PSG superstars to return to the Premier League
So on Tuesday night there was a line to be walked and Pochettino walked it. Yes, he was happy in Paris. No, he could not entirely predict what may be about to happen. Asked if he expected to remain at PSG for the remaining season and a half of his contract, Pochettino replied: ‘Football is about today, it’s not tomorrow. Football is about results. You live in the present, it’s not about living the future.
‘We need to think always you are going to be for life in the club that you are, working with responsibility and knowing we will be judged. It’s about the results. It’s the most important thing in football and in the future will be even more important.’
As expected, Pochettino spent much of his half-hour PSG press conference fielding questions about United. As he stood to leave his coach to it halfway through, PSG’s Italian midfielder Marco Verratti patted him in a brotherly fashion on the arm. As though he knew what was coming.
Pochettino, who spent five and a half years at Tottenham until his sacking in the winter of 2019, works at a volatile club and he knows it. PSG change their coach regularly and the last one they let go, Thomas Tuchel, has already won the Champions League with Chelsea.
So Pochettino knows how it works. Asked initially about United’s interest he endeavoured to play a straight bat completely.
The Argentine insisted he is happy at Paris Saint-Germain, but he is on the charm offensive
‘I am not a kid, I am not a child,’ he said. ‘The rumours are there. I understand what is going on.
‘We cannot talk about this because of my respect to my club and my respect to another club. What another club are doing in that moment is not my business.
‘I’m not going to make the mistake at all. In the past I said when I was in Espanyol my dream was to meet Sir Alex Ferguson.
‘All I say now is going to be misunderstood or out of context. I am so happy at Paris Saint-Germain and focused to try to be at my best. I was a player at PSG, I love the club, I love the fans. I think it is a fantastic time to be at the club.’
Subsequently he hinted he may honour his contract — but if United’s interest hardens to a serious play at extricating him, none of what took place last night will mean anything. Pochettino continues to have a relationship with Ferguson. He knows he is under unreasonable pressure to win the Champions League in Paris. He loves the Premier League.
His Paris Saint-Germain side have the chance to secure their knockout place against City
Pochettino leads Kylian Mbappe to Manchester to take on City on Wednesday night
On Wednesday his team could do with a victory. They beat City spectacularly in Paris in September, but on the whole their Champions League campaign has not gone smoothly. They need a win to take control of the group with a game left.
City are top and in good form. Their manager Pep Guardiola could only offer understandably bland compliments to Pochettino when it was put to him that the Argentine has never won a significant trophy as a coach.
‘Yes, you can be a top manager without titles, of course,’ said Guardiola. ‘The managers who have the chance to win titles are at top, top clubs with good investments and exceptional players. Otherwise it’s impossible to win.’
It feels inevitable that Pochettino will return to England to manage. Yesterday he briefly got the Premier League mixed up with Ligue 1 in France. It was an isolated and completely out of character mistake.