PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino appears to be the favourite to land the Manchester United job… at least in the eyes of Sir Alex Ferguson.
According to reports, Fergie is leading the charge for the Red Devils to appoint the ex-Spurs coach as their next manager.
When the Argentine, 49, first landed on our shores with Southampton in 2013, he caught the eye of the legendary Scot.
His philosophy of attacking play combined with an ability to nurture and empathise with players resonated with Sir Alex.
In 2016, they began a friendship off the pitch – with Poch mesmerised by the most successful British manager of all time over lunch at a posh Mayfair restaurant.
And last season they met up at the Lowry hotel, when Paris Saint-Germain played Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final.
Pochettino was appointed by the Saints in January 2013.
Just 12 days later he would face off against Sir Alex's Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams – the only time the two met as managers.
Before the game the bosses warmly embraced. Despite playing against the Premier League leaders, Southampton took the game to their opponents.
A 2-1 defeat and a spirited performance showed that Poch's methods on the training ground were already working. Fergie was impressed.
"I have to say, Southampton in the second-half were the best team that’s played here this season," he said after the game.
"They played exceptionally well and I think we were a bit fortunate to win the game."
Fergie retired at the end of the season, with his team champions.
Poch, however, was the rising star – overseeing impressive wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, as Southampton recorded their highest Premier League points tally ever and finished in eighth place.
GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER
Fergie and Poch's paths wouldn't cross again until three years after their first encounter. By this time, the latter was impressing as boss of Tottenham, turning the North Londoners into a title-challenging side.
In 2016, Mauricio attended the LMA League Managers Association’s president’s dinner with his trusted assistant, Jesus Perez.
Naturally, Sir Alex was there and the three became engrossed in conversation.
It was decided that they would meet for lunch, when time permitted.
“We had a short chat at the LMA dinner and we both said, and Jesús, that it would be good to meet one day,” Pochettino revealed.
"Both of us were interested to know each other."
MEETING OF MINDS
Two months later, Ferguson and Pochettino were seen leaving Scott's in Mayfair after a secret lunch.
The purpose of the meeting, clearly, was a meeting of minds. According to Mauricio in his book Brave New World, they drew similarities with the jobs they initially had to do at their clubs.
"[Ferguson] spoke to me about how he had to restructure everything when he arrived at United,” Pochettino said.
"He did so in keeping with his own philosophy, even though they finished 11th two years out of three, followed by 13th, sixth, second and only after that did he achieve league success.
"His Manchester United side were like the Tottenham team that I inherited when I took over, and the chat reassured me about following my own path.
"Why aren’t there more Fergusons? Because football is like an express train without any stops.
"It’s almost impossible to find someone in charge who is willing to be involved in taking unpopular measures.
"Sir Alex always says, ‘Many times you have to make decisions that screw you over emotionally, that won’t be understood and you won’t be able to explain.’ I agree.
"Managers live in a perpetual state of solitude, even when surrounded by people at all hours."
For Pochettino, his meeting with Fergie was the ultimate fan boy moment.
"It was a dream come true. I felt like a teenage footballer all over again, listening to a knowledgeable coach," he revealed.
"I sent the photos that we took of us together to everyone. John McDermott (Former head of player development at Spurs) commented that I seemed to be in a trance. He called me a ‘hero worshipper’."
Pochettino admitted he borrowed from Fergie's wisdom, as Perez sat on the table next to the pair drinking a £114 bottle of Brunello di Montalcino (2011).
"Myself and Sir Alex spoke, and Jesús drank," Pochettino laughed.
“I learned many things. It was two hours and it was very emotional. Every word, every sentence he told us, was a big lesson.
“Of course, it can help me to become a better manager. You can read books but there he was in front of us, with his charisma and personality. You understand why he is Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It was difficult for me to sleep that night, because it was fantastic to meet him. When I started my career as a manager, he was always my inspiration, my reference, and when you can share two hours with a person who, for me, was the greatest manager in the world and the history of football, you can only enjoy it. I wanted to stop time but it was impossible."
Since that lunch, the pair reportedly text regularly.
Last season, ahead of PSG's Champions League semi-final with Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson was spotted at the Lowry hotel – where the French side were staying.
As he left, flanked by the club's president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, it was clear he was there to see Pochettino, and perhaps pass on some tips to overcome United's fierce rivals.
The latest reports suggest Manchester United are confident of appeasing Fergie and appointing his first choice candidate.
The Manchester Evening News also claim Pochettino wants to move to Old Trafford, and is prepared to leave PSG mid-season to fulfil his dream.
He is also said to be unhappy living alone in a Paris hotel and misses England.
However, it could cost up to £10million in compensation to release him from his contract.
Although that's a steep fee, if you ask Fergie it would certainly be money well spent.
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