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Manchester United are set to approach England coach Gareth Southgate about taking over at their club.
Manchester United are considering an approach to Gareth Southgate, the England manager, as they become increasingly concerned that Mauricio Pochettino will stay at Tottenham Hotspur this summer.
United go to Wembley Stadium on Monday (NZ time) to face Pochettino’s Spurs team with no certainty yet that the Argentine is prepared to give up on five years at his current club to become the fourth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
While Pochettino remains the first choice of United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, the club are aware that he might not agree to come.
Southgate signed a new contract with the Football Association in October that takes him to the 2022 World Cup finals, and he might also decide he is best off staying where he is.
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The England manager is committed to the national team, and although United represents the biggest job in English club football, he may well believe that, at 48, it could come around for him again.
The former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is also on United’s list of possible candidates to succeed Jose Mourinho, sacked last month, on a permanent basis. He has the advantage of being unattached but despite his success at Real Madrid, there are reservations about his suitability.
An approach to Southgate would be problematic given the length of his contract with the FA and the awkwardness of taking a manager from the national team. In early 2002, United were close to appointing Sven Goran Eriksson, then the England manager, as Ferguson’s successor.
There would also be concerns about Southgate. He has had just one club management spell: at Middlesbrough, for three years between the summer of 2006 and October 2009.
Nevertheless, his resounding success in taking England to a World Cup semifinal this summer, and his faith in young players, make him an attractive proposition for United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has been in charge of the team since Mourinho’s dismissal, appears the most likely candidate to benefit should Pochettino turn down the United job.
The visit to Wembley will be the first significant test of his side after victories over Cardiff, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Reading in the FA Cup third round.
Pochettino’s recent public pronouncements on his future have offered no great clarity on whether or not he sees Spurs as being able to match his own ambition.
He admitted in the account of his career published last year, Brave New World, that he is prone to changing his mind on major career decisions. In his first job at Espanyol he turned down higher-profile jobs at Valencia and Sampdoria.
That is why United have been forced to explore other possibilities. Southgate will be watching Everton against Bournemouth today.
Ferguson was at the Carrington training ground yesterday to meet with one of his former players, Giuseppe Rossi, who is coaching there. The 31-year-old failed a drugs test last season but escaped any sanction. He is now seeking a new club after leaving Genoa in the summer.