In what feels like the most predictable rumor to emerge from the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there are multiple reports out that Manchester United is interested in prying Mauricio Pochettino out of PSG, and that the interest is mutual.
Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail was one of the first to report this, and while you can groan and include the “It’s the Mail” caveat, Mokbel is one of the better and more reliable football journalists in the UK.
The report states that Pochettino is dissatisfied with life in Paris, that his wife and family are still located in London, and that he’d be very open to a move back to the Premier League. We’ve been here before, of course — it was just this summer that Poch had a long flirtation with returning to Tottenham Hotspur before Spurs ultimately ended up signing everyone’s favorite eighth choice head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. Ultimately there were multiple forces at work, not least of which was PSG’s refusal to let Poch out of his contract, that prevented the move from happening. But it seems those underlying issues that have contributed to Poch’s dissatisfaction haven’t gone away.
So why are we, a fanbase that just hired legitimately one of the best managers in world football, so obsessed with whether our old, sacked gaffer ends up at a direct league rival?
Well, it is, and it isn’t. The truth is that Spurs had one of its best sustained spells since the double-winning season of 1961 with Poch at the helm. Even at the end when things fell apart and the players turned on him, Daniel Levy firing Pochettino felt more like a painful divorce than throwing something away. This is the guy that took Spurs to a Champions League final! Pochettino also has repeatedly reflected fondly on his time as Tottenham manager and has made numerous allusions to wanting to return someday, that he has “unfinished business” with Spurs, and has warm relations with Spurs fans and many still at the club.
Meanwhile, Manchester United are a hilariously-run club that has underperformed their talent and their incredible value for years now, and the idea that Pochettino could potentially swoop in and turn United into something that looks an awful lot like Tottenham at its best in 2016 is scary, and shockingly sad. That’s not something that a lot of fans like me want to see. Poch’s story was OUR story, and we don’t like sharing, especially not with that lot.
There’s a long distance to travel between “Poch is interested in the job” and “Pochettino is holding a Man U shirt” of course. While it’s possible that Poch could depart midseason to come to Manchester, it feels like the more natural time to make a break would be this summer, though all bets are off if PSG can convince Zinedine Zidane to come out of football purgatory. It’s possible that Tottenham might yet have to face a Pochettino-managed team for the first time since he was leading Southampton.