24 Nov 2021 | 08:46
Manchester United have spoken to Ernesto Valverde regarding becoming their interim manager. The 57-year-old was Barcelona’s manager from May 2017 until January 2020, winning La Liga twice and a Copa del Rey, and is out of work.
It is understood Valverde has discussed with John Murtough, United’s football director, taking over on a temporary basis, with the club conscious that having worked with Lionel Messi at Barcelona he would be at ease managing Cristiano Ronaldo. Valverde has started sounding out potential players he could add to strengthen the squad should he be appointed.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær was sacked on Sunday and Michael Carrick appointed as the caretaker on a match-to-match basis, the club’s stated plan being to acquire an interim manager before making a permanent appointment in the close season. Mauricio Pochettino, the current favourite, failed to confirm he would see out his Paris Saint-Germain contract, which runs until summer 2023, when asked on Tuesday.
Valverde is understood to be one of five candidates on the list for the interim role and United are ready to abandon that strategy if they can get Pochettino from Paris Saint-Germain now. Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers is another manager regarded by United as being of the requisite calibre for the permanent job.
Valverde, who has managed at six clubs since 2002, was asked in an interview for the Observer in June about one day potentially working in England. “Could be,” the Spaniard said. “I wouldn’t mind trying it. You get the feeling that there’s a respect there for what the game is.”
Valverde has also won trophies with Olympiakos and Athletic Bilbao and in 2007 led Espanyol to the Uefa Cup final.
Pochettino was questioned about the United job on the eve of PSG’s Champions League game at Manchester City. Asked to confirm he would still be at PSG in summer 2023, he said: “Football is today, football is not tomorrow. There is nothing in tomorrow. Of course the club need to plan, and we need to plan, and are working and thinking, always, about what is going to happen tomorrow. But football is about results.
“I remember always two years ago, we left Tottenham. I remember one month or a few weeks before, in the media, there were a lot of rumours linking us with another club, and look what happened after. In football it is about living the present, not about living the past or the future. We need to think always you are going to be for life in the club you are.”
Asked again about working his full term, Pochettino said: “I think I was clear. My contract is 2023, this season and one season more. I don’t say anything different. I’m really happy at Paris Saint-Germain – that’s a fact. We are in a business that the rumours are there, I completely understand what is going on – sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. This type of thing cannot distract.
“They are rumours. Rumours are there and we need to live with that. That is the football that we are living. We are so focused. We are giving 100% to try to get the best form for the club, and for the players to try to perform the best way. I am so happy for Paris Saint-Germain. For tomorrow we are focused to try to get the best result we can.
“We cannot talk about that because of my respect to my club, Paris St-Germain, my respect to another club. What another club are doing in this moment is not my business, it is not my problem.”
Kylian Mbappé is a doubt for PSG’s game at City, whose manager, Pep Guardiola, insisted that Pochettino was an elite manager despite having never won a league title in a 12-year, four-club career. Pochettino has won only the Coupe de France and the country’s equivalent of the Community Shield.
“You can be a top manager without titles, of course,” Guardiola said. “The managers who have the chance to win titles are at top, top clubs with good investments and exceptional players. Otherwise, it is impossible to win. That doesn’t mean the managers in the Championship or in the Premier League but outside the top six cannot be excellent managers in tactics, and communication, leading the team, as human beings. It’s not necessary to win titles to be a top manager.”