Mauricio Pochettino is held in high regard by the co-owners of Manchester United, who tried to bring him to Nice less than two years ago following his departure from Paris St Germain.

The Argentine left Chelsea by mutual consent on Tuesday after just one season, despite guiding them to sixth with a stellar run of form to finish the campaign.

It is unclear what are Pochettino’s immediate ambitions but reports suggest he is keen on a move to Old Trafford should interest be shown. And with the long-term future of United boss Erik ten Hag uncertain, Pochettino’s previous contact with Nice is worth recalling.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos group also own Ligue 1 club Nice and during the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford – the former British cycling chief who is director of sport at Ineos – began to draw up an ambitious plan: to challenge and eventually replace PSG as the kings of French football.

Lucien Favre was head coach of Nice at the time but was never viewed as a long-term solution by Ineos, and eventually left the club in January 2023. Ineos knew it would take huge investment to run PSG close and debated who they would hire as chief executive, sporting director and head coach if money were no object.

Mauricio Pochettino has admirers in form of Manchester United's current co-owners

Mauricio Pochettino has admirers in form of Manchester United's current co-owners

Mauricio Pochettino has admirers in form of Manchester United’s current co-owners

Sir Dave Brailsford (left) and Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) wanted to hire Pochettino as boss at Nice

Sir Dave Brailsford (left) and Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) wanted to hire Pochettino as boss at Nice

Sir Dave Brailsford (left) and Sir Jim Ratcliffe (right) wanted to hire Pochettino as boss at Nice

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At the time, Pochettino ticked a number of boxes: he spoke reasonable French having represented PSG both as player and coach; he had a background in the Premier League with Tottenham and Southampton, which appealed to Sir Jim; and Brailsford had met Pochettino on more than one occasion when he was manager of Spurs.

Brailsford had liked what he had seen back then and with Pochettino now free, the pair held a number of conversations about bringing him to the French Riviera. Brailsford outlined Ineos’ plans to turbo-charge Nice and make them a serious force in Europe, and hoped the chance to knock PSG from their perch would appeal.

Though impressed by the plans, Pochettino was not persuaded and was never formally offered a role at Nice. He had become used to working in the Champions League and perhaps felt that stepping away from Europe’s main club competition would be detrimental to his career.

Should they decide to move on from Ten Hag, it will be fascinating to see how Ineos view Pochettino 20 months later – and vice versa. Like Nice back then, United will not be in the Champions League next season but the Old Trafford club are an altogether bigger beast.

Should United want to invest in young players with potential, Pochettino’s work at Tottenham would provide a persuasive blueprint. 

Erik ten Hag's future at Manchester United is uncertain ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final

Erik ten Hag's future at Manchester United is uncertain ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final

Erik ten Hag’s future at Manchester United is uncertain ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final

Pochettino's work with young players at Tottenham would provide a persuasive blueprint if United want to invest in young players with potential

Pochettino's work with young players at Tottenham would provide a persuasive blueprint if United want to invest in young players with potential

Pochettino’s work with young players at Tottenham would provide a persuasive blueprint if United want to invest in young players with potential

It was not only Harry Kane who improved rapidly under Pochettino, but Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and – to an extent – Heung-min Son and Christian Eriksen.

Pochettino has come close to United before, too. Along with long-time assistant Jesus Perez, Pochettino was spotted at lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson in May 2016. 

He eventually signed a new deal with Tottenham later that month and Jose Mourinho ultimately got the gig at Old Trafford. Pochettino also came under serious consideration before United opted for Ten Hag two years ago.

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