Ever since Manchester United parted ways with divisive manager Jose Mourinho just before Christmas, Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has had his name linked with the prestigious club. Many believe the Spurs’ boss is United’s top choice to take the job on a full-time basis, but for now the Argentine manager is focused on leading his current club through Champions League, where they have reached the round of 16.
While Pochettino will have his hands full facing off against Manchester City 3 times over the course of 11 days, including twice in Champions League, the manager was asked about another quarter-final clash between Manchester United and Spanish giants Barcelona. If you follow the European game, you likely don’t need to read a Premier League betting guide to know that the English side will be massive underdogs against Lionel Messi and the La Liga leaders.
The Red Devils have looked far superior under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than they did under Mourinho, but that has done little to quell speculation that United still has its eyes on Pochettino for the job in the future. United staged a thrilling comeback against Paris St. Germain in the round of 32, which sets up their upcoming tie with Barcelona, who should be considered favorites to win the competition at this point.
“I think the Manchester United team have been built during the past few years to win big things. But winning important competitions such as the Champions League or the Premier League always depends on small details. Of course, they have the players that are capable of making things difficult for Barcelona. But I think Barcelona are one step higher than Manchester United.”
Barcelona are the odds-on favorites to win this season’s Champions League, especially now that Paris St. Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have been eliminated from the competition. Barcelona are currently head and shoulders above their competition in Spain. The Blaugrana are sitting on 66 points through 28 matches, which has them 10 points above Atletico Madrid, who sit second. Real Madrid are third on 54 points.
United, meanwhile, are fighting to get into next season’s Champions League. The Red Devils are currently fifth in the English top flight on 58 points through 30 matches, just 2 points adrift of Arsenal for fourth. United will not be able to catch up to the likes of Liverpool or Manchester City at the top of the table, but a finish in the top-4 is very much in play.
Pochettino, who formerly played against Barcelona during his time as a player with Espanyol, added, “If there is a favorite team to win the Champions League, it’s Barcelona. [Manager] Ernesto Valverde is doing a great job. Then they have players of an extraordinary level. And then they have Leo Messi. Then you have teams such as Manchester City or Juventus that will always have chances to win the competitions because they are teams designed to do that.”
While Pochettino still has a chance at the United job, Solskjaer is now considered the heavy favorite to keep his post considering the turnaround he has successfully engineered at Old Trafford this season. United are a team that will always be looking to make a splashy move but getting rid of a manager getting results (like Solskjaer) just to bring in a bigger name would be seen by many as counter-productive.
Per ESPN, neither Pochettino nor Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri have been approached by the Red Devils about the team’s coaching position.