LONDON: Despite all the will and ambition of a manager, sometimes the form of a club is not quite right.
No matter how happy Mauricio Pochettino insists he is at Paris Saint-Germain, speculation of a move to Manchester United will not go away.
Not now – even with the surprise appointment of Ralf Rangnick on Thursday as interim manager of the Old Trafford club until the end of the season – and not before someone is finally chosen as Ole’s permanent replacement Gunnar Solskjaer.
Pochettino remains a top contender for this role.
And despite his belief that his PSG players will not be distracted by what will unfold over the next six months, football history has often shown that commitment and quality are not always at the forefront when it comes to there are rumors about a manager’s position, whether they are positive. or negative.
Midfielder Ander Herrera, who ironically joined PSG from United on a free transfer in 2019 after five years at Old Trafford, said: “We are confident … we know he is focused on the season and our club and try to get the best of the team.
“We are not at all distracted [by the situation]. Ever since the first day I came here, everyone likes to talk about it, everyone likes to make rumors about it. It doesn’t affect us at all. “
That’s up for debate given their bland and rambling display in Manchester City’s 2-1 Champions League loss on Wednesday.
It was a result that saw Pep Guardiola’s side at the top of the group and the French side finish second and face a potential last 16 opponent.
City had the ballet attacking brilliance and cultured ball players that Lionel Messi and Neymar once had by their side during their Barcelona heyday.
Now they were just passengers, observers of a Guardiola masterclass that deserved a greater margin of victory for the English Premier League champions.
Based on his five-year success at Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino has built a reputation as a team builder with a strong work and team ethic. This is not seen in a PSG outfit which seems unbalanced, unconvincing and which must deserve its victories.
In the first half, they had only three touches in the opponent’s area, against 23 for City.
Boasting enviable individual talent, and despite having a happy lead thanks to Kylian Mbappe, they were often unraveled by a City side missing injured Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and £ 100million signing Jack Grealish.
In Bernardo Silva, the hosts had a player described by Gabriel Jesus – who scored the game-winning goal after an equalizer from Raheem Sterling – as “one of the best players in the world right now”. The Brazilian forward also said that “no one is selfish” in the City squad.
The hashtag #PochOUT! was soon all the rage on Twitter following the loss, with Pochettino being criticized for being too defensive, lacking in creative ideas and unable to make the most of a frontline of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe that was hardworking rather than deadly.
Pochettino felt that PSG “suffered” against City, while Herrera said Guardiola’s side had the quality to “kill you”.
But captain Marquinhos gave an overview of the failures of his own team, adding: “The Champions League is about knowing how to play against the big teams.”
For the moment, PSG are unable to do so.
With the Champions League coveted by their Qatari owners, this does not bode well for the rest of the campaign, nor for Pochettino’s future.
Just two seasons ago, Thomas Tuchel led them to the Champions League final, where they were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich. Four months later, he was dismissed with the best winning percentage in Ligue 1 history.
PSG should be ready to fight for the trophy now, but look at a lower level than their European rivals.
Pochettino must remedy this. The results will determine whether he stays in Paris or that, when United make their decision at the end of the season, the Argentine will be their first and best choice.
While PSG have decided not to let Pochettino go mid-season, they will also know that Zinedine Zidane had been discussed as a replacement – and would be popular with fans and owners alike.
Ten years ago, when Qatar offered to host the 2022 World Cup, they called on a host of stellar names to raise their profile and increase their chances.
Guardiola and Saudi superstar Sami Al-Jaber were among them. But it was Zidane’s signing that was seen as the pivotal moment to help them succeed through thick and thin.
The Frenchman is often referred to as the soccer hero for many at the forefront of sporting change in the Middle East.
As a gifted player for clubs such as Juventus and Real Madrid and his national team, Zidane was iconic and inspiring, a legend.
But he was also admired in the Gulf for his Arab roots – a Muslim of Kabyle Algerian descent.
Zidane would be the prestige signing for the Qataris to Messi – or Guardiola in coaching terms when he took over at City and transformed them with style and success.
With 11 trophies in his first coaching job at Real Madrid – over two spells and five years – he would also be the biggest winner since Carlo Ancelotti had a 16-month stint in 2012.
By winning three successive Champions League titles, Zidane has managed to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to show he can handle big names, as well as the challenge and expectations of managing a big club.
Taking a more aggressive and offensive approach, imagine what he could do with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe if he was persuaded to stay?
While Madrid still seem favorites to lure French striker Mbappe when his contract expires next summer, perhaps having Zidane in charge could make him stick around a bit longer.
As he previously admitted: “If you’re a boy and you’re French, your idol is Zidane.”
Mbappe, 22, will also have seen how Benzema flourished under Zidane’s tutelage to become one of the best strikers in the world again at 33.
Venerated and respected by his peers with stringent demands, Zidane could revitalize PSG – and allow Pochettino to rebuild a United side that is underperforming, but still has so much potential. Ultimately, that would seem like a perfect fit – and a done deal.