Pochettino was Sir Alex Ferguson’s choice at Man Utd and he should be Ratcliffe’s even with six other names in frame

MAURICIO POCHETTINO’S name should now be on Manchester United’s shortlist – if he is ready to go again.

A year in charge of new-era Chelsea ages a man, but on reflection Poch has probably enhanced his reputation overall.

Mauricio Pochettino has waved goodbye to Chelsea but should be on Man Utd’s shortlistCredit: PA

United chief Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) and fellow co-owner Avran Glazer have a big decision to makeCredit: Alamy

And given the fact that the Argentinian was Erik ten Hag’s main rival for the United job two years ago, there is no reason why new Old Trafford chief Sir Jim Ratcliffe should not consider Pochettino now.

Another casualty of the Todd Boehly-led circus at Stamford Bridge, Thomas Tuchel, is the bookies’ favourite to replace Ten Hag if the new regime at Old Trafford ditch the Dutchman this summer.

And a third boss to be spat out by the Stamford Bridge shredder, Graham Potter, is also among the runners and riders.

Gareth Southgate, Roberto De Zerbi, Thomas Frank and Kieran McKenna are also said to be high on United’s agenda.

But you can make a strong argument for Pochettino deserving to be a member of a magnificent (ish) seven when it comes to United’s options..

Back in November 2021, when United put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out of his misery, chief executive Ed Woodward was keen on trying to bring the former Southampton and Tottenham boss back to the Premier League from Paris Saint-Germain.

At the time, it proved too difficult to make much progress and Ralf Rangnick was eventually appointed as interim boss.

Nonetheless Pochettino’s name remained in the frame well into 2022 as United struggled and his exit from PSG became inevitable.

There was even talk of trying to sign players in that January which might fit a Pochettino system, in the hope of bringing him to Old Tafford in the summer.

Woodward’s influence was fading, however, because the club had already announced he was leaving.

And his internal replacement, Richard Arnold, backed Rangnick’s campaign to go for Ten Hag.

Sir Alex Ferguson was understood to favour Pochettino over Ten Hag. It was said that the United players’ preference was also for the Argentinian.

But in April 2022, United announced the appointment of Ten Hag on an initial three-year deal, with a year’s option.

Even a win in Saturday’s FA Cup Final is unlikely to earn the Dutchman a chance to see out that contract.

It is absolutely fair to say that as recently as two months ago, Pochettino would have looked like an unlikely choice to succeed Ten Hag.

The team he was trying to build from an injury-hit, inexperienced and imbalanced squad was still inconsistent. The man himself looked spent at times, worn out by trying to find new ways to say he need more time to make the unique “project” work.

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Many Chelsea fans would have been glad to see him go.

Not so much anymore, after a late surge took the Blues into the European places at the expense of Ten Hag’s United.

Pochettino has more Premier League experience and charisma than any of the other six leading candidates.

Only Tuchel has spent more time managing clubs like PSG, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, whose demands on a manager are in the same ballpark as those that a United boss faces.

At 52, his best years should still be ahead of him.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether Pochettino himself fancies throwing himself back into the firing line again straightaway.

He looked weary for much of the season. The relatively amicable, relatively mutual departure from Stamford Bridge – compared to the sackings of Tuchel and Potter – is regarded as a blessing.

Maybe Poch would prefer to take some proper time off and  regroup in a slightly less high-profile role, perhaps somewhere back in Spain where he made his name as a player and a young coach.

But if Pochettino is up for it, United would be foolish not to consider him.

Here are the men who would be his main rivals for the job:

THOMAS TUCHEL

The livewire German, 50, ticks a lot of boxes for United, which is reflected in him being a short-odds favourite with the bookmakers.

He was a Champions League winner with Chelsea as recently as 2021, he has experience of big clubs with their big expectations, he communicates well with the media and, perhaps crucially, he is available to start work immediately.

But how much should the reason for that availability count against Tuchel? He is the first Bayern Munich manager to fail to win the title for 12 years, albeit with a team in transition competing against a Bayer Leverkusen side breaking records left, right and centre.

Tuchel also has a habit of falling out with people, as he did at Chelsea for a variety of reasons. Blues chiefs may now regret letting him go so quickly now, but he has not exactly enhanced his reputation since.

Thomas Tuchel is looking for his next opportunity and sources believe he has a big chance of landing the United jobCredit: GettyGARETH SOUTHGATE

England’s second most successful manager could yet overtake World Cup-winner Sir Alf Ramsey in terms of overall achievement if he leads the Three Lions to Euro 2024 glory.

Whatever happens in Germany this summer, the smart money would be on Southgate, 53, returning to club management and he has plenty of admirers at Old Trafford.

But for all the knowledge and experience he has gained as England head coach, he has not managed in the Premier League since 2009, when he oversaw Middlesbrough’s relegation and left the club the following autumn.

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Southgate has lots going for him, not least his emotional intelligence and communication skills.

But the perception (deserved or not) of him as a cautious coach whose in-game tactical management is questionable, make him a harder sell than he might otherwise be – especially for a club like United that is trying to embark on an exciting new era.

Gareth Southgate is set to return to club football after his England contract expires this yearCredit: PA

GRAHAM POTTER

The former Brighton boss has bided his time since leaving Chelsea more than a year ago, turning down other opportunities to return to management in order to wait for the right one.

Would United be that job? Like Southgate, Potter is well-regarded by INEOS, the new United co-owners who have taken control of football affairs, and he would fit into their hierarchy well.

His ability to build relationships with players, as well as his innovative coaching, are also big pluses.

But Potter never seemed at ease in the Stamford Bridge spotlight and, like it or not, being able to talk the talk as well as walk the walk is on the list of “essential skills for this role” when it comes to the job description of a United manager.

Potter will have learned plenty from that bruising experience at Chelsea and will no doubt be a better boss for it.

But putting that to the test in arguably the biggest job of all would be a gamble, for both United and him.

Graham Potter found life at Chelsea tough but the new Man Utd regime are big fansCredit: PAROBERTO DE ZERBI

There are very good reasons why the Italian, 44, has been linked with some of the biggest jobs in world football – Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Liverpool, United – after less than two seasons at Brighton.

Although this campaign was more up and down, De Zerbi took a Seagulls side that could hold its own under Potter and turned it into one that, on its day, could beat anyone.

Man City head coach Pep Guardiola does not hand out high praise to just anyone and the Italian is also suddenly between jobs, although Brighton would want compensation.

But there are also very good reasons why other big clubs have not made decisive moves for De Zerbi, and his Brighton exit underlines a big one.

Like Tuchel, he is outspoken and headstrong, and has difficulty managing upwards, wanting more power than most modern managers are given.

De Zerbi’s undoubted gifts as a coach who improves players and is committed to attractive, attacking football come with a diva-like temperament that has put other clubs off him.

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He would be an exciting but risky appointment for United – and Chelsea may beat them to it anyway.

Roberto De Zerbi said goodbye to Brighton after his final game – coindientally, against Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty

THOMAS FRANK

The candidacy of the Brentford head coach has raised eyebrows in some quarters, but it is worth remembering that he was also on Liverpool’s shortlist before they plumped for Feyenoord’s Arne Slot.

If anyone is used to working in a data-driven, marginal-gains pursuing system like the one INEOS sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford is looking to bring to United, it is Frank.

The Bees’  impressive transfer activity is guided by owner Matthew Benham’s gambling-related algorithms and Frank is used to the sporting director-led structure United are now following..

The Dane, 50, has a famous “no d***heads” culture that has obvious attractions for United and you would like to think an underachieving dressing room would be open to his approach.

But that’s what people said about Ten Hag and look how that has turned out, even allowing for their very different personalities.

Would Frank’s calmness and intelligence survive the scrutiny at a club like United? It would be interesting to see and arguably just what they need.

But he would not be a 𝑠e𝑥y appointment and would need to show that he can play a less pragmatic brand of football to keep the fans on side in testing times.

Thomas Frank’s achievements at Brentford have attracted the attention of big clubsCredit: GettyKIERAN MCKENNA

There’s nothing like a prodigal son returning home to lead his old club back to the glory, glory days.

Former Old Trafford youth coach and assistant boss McKenna could hardly have done more since leaving United in late 2021.

The Northern Irishman, 38, is one of European football’s hottest young coaches after leading Ipswich to back-to-back promotions while playing an exciting brand of possession football that United fans would love to see at their own club.

United have tried pretty much every other route to replace Fergie: tried and trusted David Moyes, big names Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and right now Ten Hag, Dutch football’s second to last big thing, now overtaken by Slot.

So why not go down the young and inexperienced, but innovative and dynamic route of McKenna? It has worked for Bayer Leverkusen with Xabi Alonso.

But again, it feels like a risk that both parties would have to think hard about taking.

Kieran McKenna is a man in demand after leading Ipswich from League One to the top flight in two seasonsCredit: Getty

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