PSG fans not in love with Pochettino

PSG might be 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 but that is the minimum expected.

In Summary

• Asked if he was going to join United, Pochettino’s answer was clever and gave nothing away. “I am happy at Paris Saint-Germain but who knows what will happen.”

• News from Chelsea’s Cobham training ground is that Ben Chillwell could well miss the rest of the season after suffering a serious knee injury against Juventus in the Champions League.

As I pen this column, I suspect Mauricio Pochettino is packing a bag and heading for the Channel Tunnel which connects France to the UK.

He won’t be stopped along with all the other hopefuls trying to get into England and will be welcomed with open arms if he decides to become manager of one of the world’s most famous football clubs. Pochettino is not hero worshiped in Paris because PSG fans say he hasn’t achieved anything.

PSG might be 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 but that is the minimum expected with a team boasting players such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the most lethal strike force at any club. PSG fans want nothing less than Champions League success.

However, many people have observed that the players have a direct link to the owner and are more powerful than the manager. Always remember that Thomas Tuchel has won the Champions League with Chelsea and turned them into a world beating side but at PSG, his previous job, he won the Ligue 1 title and was then forced out of the club.

PSG like to change their managers regularly and often. Pochettino is keeping cool, reserved and has not committed to either United or PSG long term. The next one week will be interesting, especially after caretaker manager Michael Carrick did an excellent job with a notable win over Villareal to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.

Asked if he was going to join United, Pochettino’s answer was clever and gave nothing away. “I am happy at Paris Saint-Germain but who knows what will happen.”

There are many unknown factors in this United managerial change but I can tell you that the United directors are still planning on bringing in an interim manager if Pochettino is not immediately available or if PSG decide to fight to keep him.

PSG Sporting Director Leonardo met with Pochettino late on Tuesday evening to find out his thoughts on joining United. Ernesto Valverde looks to be the interim favourite at the moment after leaving Barcelona in 2020 and has had initial discussions with United’s football director John Murtough.

Ralf Rangnick, Lokomotiv Moscow’s head of sports development, is the other leading candidate and he too was interviewed by Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward and Managing Director Richard Arnold who both missed the win at Villareal so they could meet the German.

I am hearing that Pochettino has told close friends that he is already planning to recruit Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid and Sevilla’s French star Jules Kounde.


Chilwell could miss rest of season

News from Chelsea’s Cobham training ground is that Ben Chillwell could well miss the rest of the season after suffering a serious knee injury against Juventus in the Champions League.

The defender had a scan on Wednesday and it is feared he has sustained cruciate ligament damage. Chelsea are being forced to wait until January to learn if Ben will need surgery and the usual recovery period is six to nine months.

The news is devastating for both Chelsea and England because the international has been in great form lately and even scored four goals. He could even miss most of England’s early games leading up to next year’s Qatar World Cup.


Tuchel hopeful of keeping Rudiger

I spoke with my Chelsea contacts again this week regarding Antonio Rudiger’s position at the club.

Chelsea’s wing-backs are excelling under Thomas Tuchel’s game plan and Reece James and Ben Chilwell have contributed five assists and seven goals between them so far this season.

Tuchel said he is confident Rudiger will sign a new contract before his current deal expires next summer. He said: “We want him to stay. This is clear and he knows it.” The problem is that Rudiger wants £200k a week to reflect his seniority in the squad and Chelsea have so far refused to go above £150k.


Gerrard and Conte ban tomato ketchup!

New managers arrive in the Premier League and the tomato ketchup war hots up. Antonio Conte laid down the rule at Tottenham when he pronounced “no more ketchup with your meals!” Steven Gerrard arrived at Aston Villa and immediately declared his war on ketchup.

Conte said: “To be professional means you have to take care of your body. The training and the game is only the final part of your work. You have to prepare your body, your mind and also your heart.”

New managers bring new training routines and food menus prepared by specialist chefs who are told not to use ketchup. When Fabio Capello managed the English national team, he too banned ketchup. Manchester City even tried to introduce blue ketchup at its hospitality locations within the ground because United and Liverpool both play in red! But of course it is not all about ketchup

itself. Ketchup is a symbol and banning such a tasty and delicious food which is quite addictive is meant to strengthen the mind. These managers believe that to crave and then be denied their favourite sauce will strengthen the players mentally.

To be denied it toughens up players and makes them more focused in their training and enables them to be stronger by beating an addiction. Time will tell if this strategy works but for Gerrard and Conte, it proved to be a winning formula last weekend even if the players did miss their ketchup. Crazy rubbish or psychological mind games… only time will tell at Spurs and Villa.


Oxlade-Chamberlain ready to claim regular start

Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain says he wants more game time to prove he can be a regular starter for the Reds. He made his third start of the season as Liverpool beat Arsenal.

Injuries have been his main problem but ironically as I reported last week, it is injuries in Liverpool’s midfield that have given him his chance to shine. He said: “After I had a good game against Arsenal it is about looking forward and keeping the momentum, keep trying to help the team achieve all our goals. If I keep working hard things will fall into place so I’ll be working harder for that and we’ll see what happens.”


Carrick changes character!

Manchester United’s caretaker manager Michael Carrick always looks calm and composed, even when United are being soundly beaten. However, the players know a different side to him. During travelling to away matches at their hotel, the players often play computer games, competing in competitions, sometimes Fifa Football, sometimes war games and they tell me that Carrick changes character and turns into a shouting, screaming, full of energy gamester. The players have nicknamed him Havoc!


Fans vote for next United manager

17,000 thousand Manchester United fans took part in a “Who should take over from Ole Gunner Solskjaer? poll. Top of the list and gaining 34 per cent votes is Ajax boss Erik ten Hag. Ex-Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, came second in the poll with 19 per cent. Leicester’s Brendan Rogers scored 13 while Lokomotive Moscow’s Ralf Rangnick registered 12 per cent. However, Mauricio

Pochettino, who is the board’s favourite, received the lowest percentage of votes with only eight per cent. Despite that poll, it is highly possible that Pochettino’s personal life will encourage him into the manager’s seat at United. He has never settled properly in Paris and his family still live in London since his time at Tottenham.


Newcastle players throw off the shackles

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe was forced to sit in his hotel bedroom to watch his team draw 3-3 with Brentford. Covid-19 had cruelly intervened to stop him from attending the match.

This week,training was conducted by Howe’s deputy, Jason Tindall, and the two were in touch by phone and zoom the whole time. The players have embraced Howe’s approach which permits more freedom to attack and more opportunities to score goals.

Star winger Allan Saint-Maximin said: “It is an improvement because we had a lot of shots at goal. It is an improvement but we still concede too many goals and we are working on that.” As I wrote this column Tindall said Newcastle are awaiting doctor’s reports about Howe’s return but he is unlikely to be in the dugout for Saturday’s match at Norwich City, which is a must win for both teams, who sitting at the bottom of the table.


No big January spend for Leeds

Leeds current slump is causing concern but manager Marcelo Bielsa says the club will not spend big money to put things right in January. The board invested £150million in the last two transfer windows and spending another £30million for a top player is not an option.

Bielsa has major injury problems going into this weekend’s away game against Brighton. Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Luke Ayling and Robin Koch were all missing for the away match at Tottenham.


Vieira getting everything right at Palace

The first thing you notice when meeting Patrick Vieira is how softly spoken he is. For a man who holds medals showing he has won the Champions League, Premier League and Serie A titles and a World Cup, he is surprisingly humble and displays no signs of having an ego.

Whereas other candidates for the Palace manager’s job wanted to bring in large staffs such as Nuno Espirito Santo, who wanted to bring eight people with him, Vieira was happy to work with the team which chairman Steve Parish had assembled over several years.

Whereas his predecessor Roy Hodgson built his team on a solid defence, Vieira has released the talents of players like Wilfried Zaha to express themselves in an attacking style, chasing goals and instead of feeding off infrequent attacks on the opposing side’s penalty area. Vieira has his players chasing every ball and getting it upfield.

He admits that strategy also brings problems because he would rather chase a second goal instead of sitting comfortably on a one-goal advantage and hope to see out the game. One of Vieira’s strengths is to give young players confidence. He believes in bringing in academy players and giving them first squad opportunities. On-loan Chelsea midfielder

Connor Gallagher was persuaded to give Palace his best instead of returning his parent club and he has turned the youngster into such an impressive force that England manager Gareth Southgate has included him in his national squad.

Paris St Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino during training
Paris St Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino during training
Image: AFP