Man United: Mauricio Pochettino ‘was surprised by Erik ten Hag’s appointment as manager’


Manchester United managerial candidate Mauricio Pochettino was caught unaware by Erik ten Hag’s appointment, according to reports. 

Ten Hag was confirmed as the club’s new manager on Thursday morning after agreeing to a three-year deal with the option of an additional year and will take charge at the end of the season. 

Before his appointment, the Dutchman had been battling Pochettino for the vacancy at Old Trafford with the pair appearing to be the two leading candidates. 

Mauricio Pochettino was caught unaware by Erik ten Hag’s appointment as Man United boss

However, Pochettino had not been informed by the club that Ten Hag had emerged as United’s priority target and was caught by surprise, according to The Athletic.

United had planned reportedly to call Pochettino to inform him directly that he had missed out on the job before the announcement came. The timing of the news was ‘awkward’ as Pochettino had felt ‘confident’.

As late as this month, the PSG boss’s representatives apparently had held discussions with Matt Judge over potential contract details. 

The Dutchman was confirmed as the Red Devils' new manager on Thursday morning

The Dutchman was confirmed as the Red Devils’ new manager on Thursday morning

United had intended to call Pochettino to inform him he had missed out to Ten Hag

United had intended to call Pochettino to inform him he had missed out to Ten Hag

Two months before Ten Hag’s appointment, the Argentine is said to have been gathering information about Manchester as a city, the structure of the club and the personality of United players. 

The Athletic claimed Pochettino felt confident of getting a proposal after building a relationship with the club dating back to 2018 when he first met Ed Woodward.

Meanwhile, Sportsmail reported in February that the majority of the United squad preferred Pochettino over the Ajax boss.

United never made contact with Paris Saint-Germain over the manager's potential departure

United never made contact with Paris Saint-Germain over the manager’s potential departure

But United never made contact with PSG over Pochettino’s potential departure from the Ligue 1 club.  

The former Tottenham manager’s interview with United reportedly took place over Zoom and did not go as well as Ten Hag’s

The Argentine is said to have revealed how many players he was willing to release from Old Trafford and spoke about how much it would cost to overhaul the squad. 

PSG were said to be demanding a substantial release fee, despite looking likely to sack the manager anyway, compared to Ajax who are willing to let Ten Hag leave for around £2million. 

PSG (pictured president Nasser Al-Khelaifi) demanding a substantial release fee for Pochettino

PSG (pictured president Nasser Al-Khelaifi) demanding a substantial release fee for Pochettino

The French side were initially thought to be demanding close to £10m in compensation for the potential loss of their manager but following their Champions League demise to Real Madrid, their resolve softened and are believed to settle for £5m. 

PSG were aware they could save money by letting Pochettino leave rather than paying cost of sacking him – estimated by L’Equipe to be £17m.

However, neither the French giants or United wanted to make the first move at the risk of giving the upper hand, while Pochettino felt he could not push for the move as he would find himself in a weaker position when it came to negotiating his contract with the Red Devils. 

United were also worried Real Madrid would poach the PSG boss from under their noses.  

Darren Fletcher (right) and John Murtough (left) were impressed by Ten Hag's assessment

Darren Fletcher (right) and John Murtough (left) were impressed by Ten Hag’s assessment 

Technical director Darren Fletcher and football director John Murtough reportedly flew out to the Netherlands to interview the 52-year-old last month, before chief executive Richard Arnold made the trip to hold one-on-one meetings.

Ten Hag reportedly tore the club’s set-up apart, directing his criticism mainly at United’s scouting and recruitment policy.

Despite their initial shock, the United bosses were not thought to be put out by Ten Hag’s blunt assessment and instead were impressed by his brutal honesty and he emerged as their priority candidate. 

Ten Hag beat out a final shortlist of four managers for the job in the Old Trafford dugout.

Alongside Ten Hag and Pochettino, ESPN state the final four-man shortlist included Spain boss Luis Enrique and Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui.  

United's final four-man shortlist also included Spain boss Luis Enrique

There were fears at the club that Julen Lopetegui (pictured) would be 'another Unai Emery'

United’s final four-man shortlist also included Spain boss Luis Enrique (left) and Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui (right)

United briefly considered Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers before their form nose-dived, while Bayern Munich’s Julian Nagelsmann, Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel, Rodgers and former Real Madrid chief Zinedine Zidane were also said to be in contention

However, Nagelsmann – who became the most expensive managerial transfer ever when he moved from RB Leipzig for £22m in July – and Tuchel, manager of United’s rivals Chelsea, were quickly dismissed as realistic options.

Zidane was an option before apparently indicating he would only return to club football with PSG, while Enrique is busy preparing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in November and there were fears Lopetegui would be ‘another Unai Emery’. 



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