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Manchester City Champions League champions are not doing well for the restless Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

LONDON: Despite all the will and ambition of a manager, a club’s fit is sometimes not quite right.

No matter how much Mauricio Pochettino insists he loves Paris Saint-Germain, speculation about a move to Manchester United will not go away.

Not now – even with the surprising appointment on Thursday of Ralf Rangnick as the Old Trafford club’s interim manager until the end of the season – and not until someone is finally elected as Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s permanent replacement.

Pochettino remains a leading candidate for that role.

And despite his belief that his PSG players will not be distracted by what happens over the next six months, football history has often shown that commitment and quality do not always come to the fore when there are rumors of a manager’s position, whether it is positive. or negative.

Midfielder Ander Herrera, who ironically came to PSG from United on a free transfer in 2019 after five years at Old Trafford, said: “We are convinced … we know he is focused on the season and our club and on try to get the best from the club.

“We are not distracted at all [by the situation]. Since the first day I came here, everyone loves to talk about it, everyone loves to make rumors about it. It does not affect us at all. ”

That’s up for debate given their weak-minded and incoherent display in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.

It was a result that got Pep Guardiola’s side to top the group, and the French side finished in second place and faced a potentially tougher quarterfinal opponent.

City had the ballet attacking brilliance and cultured ball players that Lionel Messi and Neymar once had next to them during their heyday in Barcelona.

Now they were just passengers, observers of a Guardiola champions class that deserved a bigger margin of victory for the English Premier League champions.

Based on his success through five years at Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino created a reputation for building sides with a strong work and team ethic. It is not visible in a PSG outfit that seems unbalanced, unconvincing and must earn their victories.

In the first half, they had only three touches in the opponent’s field, compared to City’s 23.

Blessed with enviable individual talents, and despite taking a lucky lead through Kylian Mbappe, they were often unleashed by a City team that missed the injured Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and £ 100m under Jack Grealish.

In Bernardo Silva, the hosts had a player described by Gabriel Jesus – who scored the winning goal after a Raheem Sterling equalizer – as “one of the best players in the world right now”. The Brazilian striker also said “no one is selfish” on the City team.

hashtag #PochOUT! was soon trending on Twitter after the defeat, with Pochettino being criticized for being too defensive, lacking creative ideas and unable to get more out of a front line of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe that was strained rather than deadly.

Pochettino felt that PSG “suffered” against City, while Herrera said that Guardiola’s team had the quality to “kill you”.

But captain Marquinhos gave an insight into his own team’s mistakes when he added: “Champions League, it’s you have to know how to play against the big teams.”

Right now, PSG are not able to do that.

With the Champions League coveted by their Qatar owners, this does not bode well for the rest of the campaign or 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 rejected with the best win percentage in Ligue 1 history.

PSG should be ready to challenge the trophy now, but see a level below their European rivals.

Pochettino must address that. The results will determine whether he stays in Paris or that when United make their decision at the end of the season, the Argentine is their first and best choice.

While PSG have decided not to let Pochettino leave mid-season, he will also be aware that Zinedine Zidane had been discussed as a replacement – and would prove popular with fans and owners.

A decade ago, when Qatar hosted the World Cup in 2022, they brought a number of star names on board to increase their profile and increase their chances.

Guardiola and Saudi Arabia superstar Sami Al-Jaber were among them. But it was the signing of Zidane that was seen as the crucial moment to help them succeed against all odds.

The Frenchman is often named the football hero for many of those who are 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 because of his Arab roots – a Muslim of Algerian Kabyle descent.

Zidane would be the prestige signing for the Qataris a la 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 managerial job at Real Madrid – over two periods and five years – he would also be the biggest winner since Carlo Ancelotti had a period of 16 months in 2012.

By lifting three consecutive Champions League titles, Zidane managed to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to show he could handle big names and the challenge and expectation of leading a big club.

By taking a more aggressive and attacking approach, imagine what he could do with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe if he was persuaded to stay?

Although Madrid still appear to be favorites to lure French striker Mbappe when his contract expires next summer, it might make him stay a little longer if Zidane is in charge.

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 guidance to once again become one of the world’s best strikers with his 33 years.

Honored and respected by his peers with tough demands, Zidane was able to revitalize PSG – and give Pochettino the opportunity to rebuild a United team that is underperforming but still has so much potential. In the end, this would look like a perfect fit – and a fait accompli.


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