The former Tottenham boss is the favourite to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, with the pressure building on the Norwegian after a terrible start to the campaign. United are currently languishing in 15th place in the Premier League, having won just two of their six matches so far.
United considered hiring Pochettino in 2016 following Louis van Gaal’s departure but Jose Mourinho was considered a greater ‘certainty’ of success after the club won just one trophy in the three years following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
It was Ferguson that was keen on appointing Pochettino, with the Scot doing little to mask his admiration for the former Tottenham boss by having dinner with the Argentine shortly before Van Gaal’s sacking and sparking speculation at the time that he was being lined-up for the role at the Theatre of Dreams.
Pochettino again was at the top of United’s wishlist after Mourinho’s sacking in 2018 and United even promised to ‘conduct a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager’ when Solskjaer was named as interim boss.
However, the Norwegian’s success during his time as caretaker forced United’s hand and the former Molde boss was given a three-year contract.
Solskjaer is nearly halfway through his deal at Old Trafford but United are just four points above the relegation zone in the Premier League and Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir has piled the pressure on the 47-year-old.
United face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday and a defeat would leave the club hovering just above the bottom three heading into a two-week international break.
It’s why there’s a growing feeling at the club that Pochettino must be viewed as a serious alternative to Solskjaer and it did not go unnoticed that the Argentine chose to appear on Monday Night Football last week to essentially put himself in the shop window.
Pochettino spoke about being ‘ready’ to return to management and the 48-year-old is believed to be keen on speaking to the club should there be an opportunity to take over at Old Trafford.
However, United have no current plans to sack Solskjaer and maintain that defeat at Goodison Park on Saturday will not alter their belief in the current incumbent.
United stuck by Solskjaer after a horrific start last season and showed their mettle by resisting calls to sack the former Cardiff boss after an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Burnley in January, when thousands of fans vacated Old Trafford before the end of the game.
But the landscape has changed in the Premier League. While United’s aim is to be ‘ready’ to pounce once the domination of Manchester City and Liverpool is over, they now face the possibility of missing out on Pochettino to their local rivals.
The Argentine is admired by City’s heirachy, who are unsure if Pep Guardiola will commit his future to the club beyond the end of the current season. The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of the campaign and is yet to sign a new deal at the club, despite recent comments that suggest he’s warming to the idea of staying at the Etihad.
City are desperate for Guardiola to stay but the club are wary of how the Spaniard’s time at Bayern Munich ended when Guardiola waited until the last five months of his final season at the club before announcing his departure.
Given a unique set of circumstances, City must plan for the future and Pochettino is deemed an ideal candidate in terms of his philosophy, character and temperament to take over from Guardiola should he choose to leave. City’s board also believe that the club’s first-team squad would be a good fit for Pochettino’s preferred style of play and that he would not stray too far from the one implemented by Guardiola since 2016.
United are aware of City’s interest and reluctantly accept that they’d be unable to compete with their neighbours in a direct shootout for Pochettino this summer, hence the attraction of moving for the Argentine now.
There are no current plans to part with Solskjaer but the club would be reckless not plan for all eventualities and the Norwegian knows the goodwill towards him is running out after a catastrophic start to the campaign.
Pochettino will be ready if United’s slide continues.