Manchester United's 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool could prove to be the beginning of the end, or indeed the final straw, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The team have performed poorly this season, failing to win any of their last five domestic games (losing four) and requiring last-minute winners from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League following an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Young Boys.

Sunday's embarrassing scoreline set a number of unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against Liverpool at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Solskjaer only signed a new three-year deal with an option for an additional year in July, but disappointing results have sparked speculation about the Norwegian's future.

If Solskjaer is indeed replaced, who might take his spot and be charged with guiding United back to the top? Stats Perform takes a look at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Conte seems, in many ways, to be an ideal appointment for United. For starters, the Italian is a free agent, having left Inter after winning Serie A last season – breaking Juventus' nine-year grip in the process and ending the Nerazzurri’s long wait for a league title.

The first three of those nine consecutive league titles for Juventus were won by Conte himself, who took a Bianconeri side that had not won the Scudetto since their revoked success in 2005 and established an era of dominance, going undefeated in the league in his first season (2011-12) and setting the Serie A points record (102) in his third.

His achievements in Italy are coupled with experience and success in England, winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017 (racking up an impressive 93 points) and claiming an FA Cup the year after.

Conte does have a reputation for being a volatile coach, but his track record of titles will surely be tempting for United, who have not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

However, former United defender Gary Neville does not think the ex-Italy coach is a good fit for the club, telling Sky Sports: "Conte's available but I wouldn't bring him to Manchester United. I wouldn't bring him here now. I don't think Antonio Conte is a fit for Manchester United."

Zinedine Zidane

Another free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May and he remains available.

Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role.

The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as an upgrade on Solskjaer.

He has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. 

 

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous two names on this list, but has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first-ever FA Cup last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.

He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside.

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.

However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.

Never say never, but this deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off given the timing.

 

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag has impressed in his time in the Netherlands, winning two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before falling going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag and are four points clear at the top of the league once more this season, beating title rivals PSV 5-0 on Sunday.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who has also been linked with Newcastle United – would be willing to leave mid-season.

What does the future hold for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

His position as Manchester United manager is becoming more uncertain after an embarrassing loss to Liverpool.

A former Premier League-winning boss, Antonio Conte, is believed to be waiting in the wings.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE EYEING UNITED ROLE?

The Manchester United job would be a priority for Antonio Conte should the Red Devils part with embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Sportitalia journalist Gianluigi Longari.

Solskjaer is facing fierce criticism following Sunday's humiliating 5-0 defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Former Inter and Chelsea boss Conte has been linked with Newcastle United following talk of a pre-season move to Tottenham, while the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino could reportedly be considered for the United role.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is in talks with Manchester City, Tottenham and Juventus, per Gianluca Di Marzio. The Germany international is available on a free transfer at season's end amid reported interest from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Marcelo wants to leave Madrid for Fluminense in 2022, claims El Nacional. Marcelo is out of contract at the end of the season.

- El Nacional says Barcelona have decided to sell United States international Sergino Dest. The 20-year-old has struggled for form at Camp Nou and he has been linked with Bayern.

Inter and Juve both identified Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic and Sampdoria's Mikkel Damsgaard, per Calciomercato. Vlahovic has also been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

- Calciomercato claims Serie A high-flyers Milan are eyeing Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

 

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino declared himself "satisfied" with what he saw from Neymar in the Ligue 1 leaders' 0-0 draw with rivals Marseille in Le Classique.

Neymar returned to the squad after missing PSG's Champions League win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday with a groin injury and started up front alongside Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi on Sunday.

That reunion did not produce the desired effect, with the vaunted attacking trio unable to find the net away to Marseille at the Velodrome. 

PSG were forced to play with 10 men from the 57th minute, when star full-back Achraf Hakimi was sent off.

That tactical disadvantage forced Neymar to drop back into the midfield after Thilo Kehrer replaced Angel Di Maria just past the hour.

Neymar gave way himself in the 83rd minute, as Georginio Wijnaldum came on to see out the draw. 

It was the first 0-0 between Marseille and PSG at the Velodrome in Ligue 1 since November 1998, the end of a 21-match run.

"After the sending off, a choice needed to be made, and at that point, we thought we had to bring on Kehrer and bring Neymar back as a third midfielder," Pochettino told reporters.

He added: "I am very satisfied with Neymar's game, he has sacrificed a lot for the team after returning from the Brazilian national team and being inactive."

Neymar played all 90 minutes in Brazil's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Uruguay during the international break, producing a goal and two assists as Brazil won the latter fixture 4-1. 

Though the Brazilian has not scored for his club since September 19, PSG have plenty of options.

PSG are unbeaten in their last nine trips to Marseille in Ligue 1 (W6 D3), and remain on a run of three clean sheets at their rivals in the top flight – a first in their history.

None of them came through on Sunday, but Pochettino sounded an upbeat note afterward. 

"There are several positive things to take from the game," he said. "The team was solid, it showed character, it was well-organised with and without the ball.

"It's a shame to have played with 10 men for nearly 40 minutes. But even in these conditions, we controlled the game.

"We don't want to celebrate the point because there's a bitter feeling with this game. But there were some good things from an attacking point of view, we just lacked in finishing. I think we were a bit better than OM, not by much, but we deserved to win."

Mauricio Pochettino believes Paris Saint-Germain displayed "character and personality" in their 0-0 draw with Marseille on Sunday.

PSG largely struggled to break down a stubborn Marseille defence despite starting with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, before their hopes of claiming all three points were dented when Achraf Hakimi received a straight red card in the 57th minute for bringing down Cengiz Under.

Marseille went close to finding a winner in the closing stages, while Messi was chased by a spectator late in the second half, with security slow to apprehend the man.

The result stretched PSG's unbeaten run at Marseille in Ligue 1 to nine games, while they have now kept clean sheets at the Orange Velodrome in three straight matches for the first time in their history.

Despite PSG's lacklustre showing in attack, Pochettino was pleased with his side's efforts in front of a hostile home crowd, who routinely threw objects at PSG players as they took corners.

"I think overall our performance was good," he told RMC Sport. 

"We played almost 40 minutes with 10 men because of Hakimi's red card. Yes, we wanted to win, it was our idea. But, in the end, we are quite happy with this performance.

"I think we played well. Yes, it was a very good game, with different phases. I think we just missed scoring. We did a lot of positive things. I'm pretty happy because it was a very difficult game. 

"The team showed character and personality. By playing with 10 for 40 minutes, I think we showed a lot of character. Of course, we showed identity and style in the game."

 

The result means PSG are seven points clear at the Ligue 1 summit, while Marseille are 10 points behind in fourth, although Jorge Sampaoli's side have a game in hand.

It was their first draw of the season and, while happy with the performance, Pochettino expects his side to return to winning ways soon.

"Obviously, as coach of PSG, we always hope to win, but I can only congratulate the players for what they did today," he added.

"We are in search of a balance. From experience, we know that these periods in October and November are always difficult.

"But I am happy with the progress of the team, I am satisfied with where it is today in its course of evolution."

PSG are next in action on Friday when they host reigning champions Lille at the Parc des Princes.

Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed that Mauro Icardi would be available for Sunday's Le Classique clash at Marseille.

The 28-year-old has missed several training sessions and was not named in the squad that beat RB Leipzig 3-2 in the Champions League due to personal issues, but Pochettino has confirmed that the striker is now back in contention.

Icardi is PSG's joint-second highest scorer in the league and, of players at the club to have played at least 300 minutes in the competition, the striker has the best minutes per goal ratio (159.67) and ranks second for expected goals (2.37).

"Mauro is a mentally strong person," Pochettino said. "He trained with us before Leipzig, although he didn't play, and [he came back on Thursday]. 

"He will be in the group [on Sunday]. The club, from the president to the staff, makes sure to support him and be present if necessary. But he's good, available."

Pochettino was also boosted by the availability of Neymar on Friday, but Leandro Paredes remains sidelined, with a return scheduled after the next international break, as do Spanish pair Sergio Ramos - who still has yet to make his debut - and back-up goalkeeper Sergio Rico, who is expected to be back in training in a week.

The former Tottenham and Southampton boss in relishing a special contest between the Ligue 1 leaders and third-placed Marseille.

"Tomorrow's game is different," Pochettino added. "I've experienced it as a player and as a coach last year. 

"We know each other well, it will be a special game. We play for the three points, but also for pride, joy."

PSG are top of Ligue 1 with 27 points from their opening 10 games, winning nine and losing one, while Marseille are third on 17 points, although they have a game in hand.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said his "under construction" team can count on Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe's individual talent after the pair starred in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.

Leipzig had six more shots (18-12) as they came from behind to grab a 2-1 lead early in the second half after Mbappe opened the scoring for PSG following a swift counter-attack in the ninth minute of the Group A fixture.

PSG regained control, with Mbappe setting up Messi for a 67th-minute equaliser, before the Argentine superstar coolly dinked home from the spot after the French forward was brought down.

The Parisians had more possession (64.5 per cent) but Pochettino acknowledged too much was in their own half, forcing them to play on the break, rather than force the game.

"It takes time, we are a team under construction," Pochettino said during the news conference. "We had the possession, but we prefer to have it more high on the pitch. But I have also seen good things offensively, which are improving, and which will work better over time.

"Messi and Mbappe? It is difficult to find collective solutions, this is where we can count on players like them. Talents are easily found, there is no time for these automatisms to come back more easily."

Messi became the fourth player to score in their first two home Champions League matches for PSG after Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994), while he has now scored 19 goals in 18 games against German opposition in the competition.

Mbappe, who does not turn 23 until December, has already scored 28 Champions League goals – it is the most by any player in the competition before their 23rd birthday, ahead of Messi (25).

Pochettino added that while utilising six-time Ballon d'Or Messi and Mbappe's qualities on the break was effective, he still was aiming to dominate games more in the opposition's half yet needed more time.

"Kylian's qualities are perfect for playing in transition," he told RMC Sport. "When you have Leo, with his passing quality, [Achraf] Hakimi and [Nuno] Mendes on the sides capable of attacking spaces … You can play that way. But we can also progress in the positional game, but that takes time."

PSG, who were also missing Neymar to injury, had 72 per cent possession in the first half, however. Pochettino said his side turned over the ball too much.

Leipzig may have capitalised more with Andre Silva, who equalised in the 28th minute, also hitting the woodwork, while Christopher Nkunku went close on a few occasions before Nordi Mukiele put the German visitors ahead in Paris.

"We have to correct things, we lost too many balls in the first half under the pressure from Leipzig, our midfielders were down," Pochettino said.

"We had trouble connecting with our attackers. In difficult times, we conceded two goals in the counterattack where we had the numerical superiority, we have to improve.

"But we have the satisfaction of having shown character to get back from 2-1."

PSG have been defeated only four times in 44 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League (W34 D6), winning all six of their games against German sides (Bayern Munich on four occasions and Leipzig twice).

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino has "no doubt" Lionel Messi will continue to perform at the highest level when playing for the Ligue 1 giants.

Messi and PSG will host Group A rivals RB Leipzig on matchday three of the Champions League on Tuesday.

After netting in PSG's win against Manchester City three weeks ago, Messi is looking to join team-mate Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994) in scoring in his first two home games for the club in the competition.

As Messi continues to find his feet in the French capital following his blockbuster switch from Barcelona, Pochettino praised the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Leo [Messi] shines by himself.  He shone in Barcelona, [he] shines with Argentina and shines at PSG," Pochettino told reporters, with PSG level on four points with Club Brugge – a point above City and four clear of winless Leipzig.

"He is absolutely adapted, he has the intelligence and the adaptation ability at the highest level. He is now more relaxed and with the experience of being at the club and in the city a few months he is very happy here.

"We are very happy and we expect that everything goes naturally and him to perform the way he expects and everyone expects. I have no doubt about that."

PSG have a great record against German opponents, having won seven of their eight meetings with Bundesliga clubs on home soil, though the exception in that run was in April this year when Bayern Munich won 1-0 at the Parc des Princes.

Champions League runners-up in 2019-20, PSG do not tend to slip up at home in the group stage, losing just one of their past 28 such games – against Manchester United in October 2020 – and netting 2.7 goals per game on average.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said he understood Angers' frustration after a controversial late penalty gave the Ligue 1 leaders a 2-1 victory.

PSG trailed following Angelo Fulgini's 36th-minute opener before Danilo Pereira's header, their first shot on target, levelled matters on Friday.

It looked as if they would have to settle for a share of the spoils, but PSG were awarded a penalty after a VAR check for handball against Pierrick Capelle.

Kylian Mbappe swept home from 12 yards in the 87th minute, with Angers left to fume.

Romain Thomas felt he was fouled by PSG forward Mauro Icardi in the lead-up to the penalty incident.

He told Prime Video: "It's incredible what's happened.

"Losing 2-1 at the end, losing here isn't shameful, but [to lose] like that... no, it's not possible.

"We worked all week to do something properly and the referees can't take the time to do theirs.

"VAR... I'm starting to get tired of this story. Putting millions into something when you don't even know how to use it, it annoys me because I'm passionate, I'm dedicated.

"At the start of the play, he [Icardi] pulled me on the arm, I fell and then he plays from that position for the penalty. So, I'm frustrated."

Asked about Angers' complaints, Pochettino said: "It's difficult. I haven't seen the action footage yet. I couldn't see correctly whether there was a hand, a penalty or a foul ... I don't know. 

"I understand Angers' feelings. I myself have often known these situations where the decisions are a little against us. But these are game situations."

PSG have won 24 Ligue 1 games since the start of the Pochettino era in January 2021 (D2 L5) – at least four more than any other team over the period.

Mbappe's penalty was his only shot on target from three attempts, his winner following his decisive goal in France's victory over Spain in the Nations League final.

On Mbappe's performance, Pochettino added: "He is a player about whom we are full of praise. He has enormous qualities, especially that of being decisive when the team needs it."

Mbappe has scored and delivered an assist in the same Ligue 1 game for only the third time in 2021, after January against Montpellier (two goals, one assist) and April at Strasbourg (one goal, one assist). He has been involved in 27 league goals for the year (20 goals, seven assists) – at least four more than any other player in the top flight.

PSG are nine points clear at the top of Ligue 1, though they have played a game more than second-place Lens.

Sergio Ramos' debut for Paris Saint-Germain has been pushed back again as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Ramos ended a 16-year association with Real Madrid as he joined PSG in July on a free transfer, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League semi-final loss against Chelsea in early May.

Reports suggested the centre-back, who signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes, could make his debut on Friday against Angers. However, PSG have confirmed that is not the case.

The Ligue 1 champions released an update on Thursday, announcing Ramos is still in individual training with a view to joining the squad in 10 days, which means he will also seemingly miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig and the trip to Marseille for Le Classique on October 24.

When asked about the Spain international's prolonged absence, Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference: "I am convinced he will get back to his best.

"It is clear that every player, in this case Sergio Ramos, does not enjoy the situations when they are out and unable to train with their team-mates and play for such a long time.

"He is suffering but is strong mentally and he is coping with it as well as he can. The performance team are helping him stay at a high level and full of motivation to get over this problem."

Ramos appeared in 469 top-flight games for Madrid – with only three players racking up more appearances in the competition for Los Blancos.

He lifted 22 trophies at the club – with only Paco Gento (23) bettering that haul – and started all of his 129 Champions League matches, the most of any player in the competition without a single substitute appearance.

When fit, Pochettino will not just have a defensive leader to call upon, Ramos is also one of the best defenders in terms of attacking returns.

Since the turn of the century, Ramos is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five leagues, and only three players have netted more headed LaLiga goals in that period than the 35-year-old (39).

Neymar will find all the support he needs at Paris Saint-Germain after the Brazil superstar questioned his long-term future in football, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has promised.

In May, Neymar signed a new contract to stay with PSG until 2025, and this season he has been joined by Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes.

Along with Kylian Mbappe, they could forge one of the great strike forces in the game, although at this stage the trio are still finding their way as a combination.

Despite the challenge of making such an exciting alliance work, Neymar has said he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer and would likely play his final World Cup in Qatar next year.

"Neymar is an honest person and a player who expresses his feelings quickly," PSG boss Pochettino told a news conference on Thursday.

"But I think his mental strength, considering he has been playing football since a very young age and has always had the media spotlight on him, I don't think there are any problems.

"Sometimes things are taken out of context, but I have no doubt he enjoys his football and I'm sure he will play for many years. I don't have any doubts about that."

Asked about mental health in football, in relation to Neymar's comments, Pochettino said: "This is something that exists in high-level sport. As the coaching staff it is our job to have certain tools in place to help our players.

"But I also don't like talking about this in such a surface-level way, because I think it is much more complicated than that. Certain things cannot be taken out of context and we can't simplify these situations, particularly ones that we are not going through ourselves.

"We are always very worried about our players' physical and mental well-being, so we are always available to help them."

 

Focusing on Neymar, Pochettino said: "His passion for football is on display with us every day so I have no doubts about that."

The former Barcelona forward has experienced a slow start to the campaign in terms of his productivity, scoring only once and having just two shots on target in his first seven club games of the season across all competitions.

Yet only Pele (77) has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with his country, along with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

His suggestion that the 2022 World Cup may be his last also reflects that Neymar will be 34 by the time the 2026 tournament comes around.

It remains to be seen how PSG are as a force by then, but for now they are expected to win every game, which made the 2-0 loss to Rennes before the international break such a surprise.

That shock reverse followed on from a victory by the same scoreline against Manchester City in the Champions League, and Pochettino reflected on the Rennes game again on Thursday, choosing to describe it as "a slip-up".

On Friday, his team tackle Angers at the Parc des Princes, when they will be expected to get back on track, albeit hampered by absences caused by stars such as Neymar being on World Cup qualifying duty this week in South America.

PSG are unbeaten in their past 21 Ligue 1 games against Angers (W14 D7), which is their longest run without defeat against a single top-flight opponent.

After his Nations League efforts for France, PSG will hope to have a firing Mbappe on the pitch. The striker has failed to score in his previous four Ligue 1 games, his longest top-flight drought since March-May 2018 (six games). None of his past 17 shots in Ligue 1 has found the net.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino offered a less assertive assessment of Kylian Mbappe's prospects of remaining with the Ligue 1 giants but said the "situation is open" amid interest from Real Madrid.

Mbappe, who is into the final year of his contract in Paris, has long been courted by Madrid and the French star revealed he wanted to leave PSG for the LaLiga powerhouse at the start of the season.

PSG sporting director Leonardo last week slammed Madrid for their "not respectful" conduct in pursuing Mbappe for the past two years.

Leonardo was confident about the Parisians' chances of extending the 22-year-old's current deal, but Pochettino was less bullish in his assessment of Mbappe's future in the French capital.

"Mbappe is fine, he's a calm boy with a lot of personality and a very sociable character, he is clear about things and loves football, he's very mature for 22-years-old," Pochettino said in an interview with COPE and Radio MARCA.

"Kylian will make the decision he has to make and the club will do everything possible to keep him, because we're taking about one of the best players in the world at 22.

"I'm left with the fact that the situation is open and in the future anything can happen, the position of a few months ago may change in the future, PSG as a club certainly have the ambition and ability to persuade him and offer him things so that he can stay and be happy, the possibilities that he could change his mind are there."

Pochettino also offered an update on former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who joined PSG on a free transfer in the off-season but is yet to debut due to injuries.

The 35-year-old is closing in on a return to fitness after a frustrating start to life in Paris.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG play Angers on Friday, before meeting RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, Ramos hasn't started training with the group yet, but he is close," Pochettino said.

"We're happy with his progression, he's a great champion and someone who isn't going to doubt his qualities and footballing talent, he's not having a good time right now but he is strong."

Mauricio Pochettino was left "frustrated and disappointed" after Paris Saint-Germain failed to register a shot on target in Sunday's shock 2-0 loss to Rennes.

The Ligue 1 leaders' eight-game winning streak to begin their league campaign came to an end at Roazhon Park as goals from Gaetan Laborde and Flavien Tait proved decisive.

PSG registered 13 shots but failed to test opposition goalkeeper Alfred Gomis from any of those, with Kylian Mbappe having a second-half strike ruled out by VAR for offside.

Mbappe had earlier scuffed a shot over the crossbar with only Gomis to beat, while Neymar was way off target with a volleyed attempt six yards out with the scores still level.

Pochettino also started with fellow superstar forward Lionel Messi, who had a game-high five shots, the most notable of which saw him hit the crossbar from a free-kick.

Angel Di Maria was brought into the side in place of Ander Herrera from Tuesday's 2-0 win over Manchester City, but Pochettino has no regrets over his attack-minded selection.

"I don't think we can look at our system. We played 25 of our best minutes of the season [in the first half]," Pochettino said at his post-match news conference.

"We didn't start the game well, but we then had 25 or 30 minutes of good quality football. It was a shame not to capitalise.

"We then had two psychological blows, conceding just before and just after half-time. The match was then open. We created chances but had a hard time.

"Rennes grew in confidence and we started to become frustrated."

 

The defeat was Messi's first since joining PSG from Barcelona in August, the Argentina international still without a goal in three Ligue 1 matches.

Mbappe, meanwhile, has now had 17 shots since last finding the net in Ligue 1.

While Messi, Mbappe and Di Maria played the full 90 minutes, Neymar was withdrawn 14 minutes from time after managing just that one wayward attempt in the first half.

Rather than point the finger at individuals, however, Pochettino accepted the blame for his side's first league loss since early April, a run of 15 matches.

"When we won against Man City, it was down to a collective effort," he said. "The first person in charge is me. What we did for 25 minutes was of very high quality.

"We must extend that to 90 minutes. I am satisfied with one sector – we created a lot of situations and opportunities."

PSG's 13 attempts without registering a shot on target is their highest in a Ligue 1 match since Opta started collecting such data in 2006-07.

Rather than put the rare setback down to fatigue on the back of a tough European match with Man City five days ago, Pochettino accepts a lack of cutting edge was to blame.

Asked if he was feeling angry, Pochettino said: "Yes, a bit. Nobody likes to lose games. We can't underestimate what Rennes did, but we are frustrated and disappointed.

"We had chances to score and then conceded a couple of goals. Situations like this leave us bitter and disappointed.

"But it's not to do with playing in midweek. We've had five days since then. I repeat, we played 30 minutes of good football today. 

"We had control of the game and conceded when on top. We were immediately 2-0 down in the second half and then it's a different game."

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said there is no doubt Lionel Messi is the best player in the world after scoring his first goal for the French giants in Tuesday's win over Manchester City.

PSG got past Premier League champions City 2-0 at Parc des Princes, with Idrissa Gueye opening the scoring in the eighth minute before Messi sealed the win via a 74th-minute strike into the top corner.

The goal was Messi's first in PSG colours in his fourth appearance since switching from LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona on a free transfer in the off-season.

Messi has scored more Champions League goals against City (seven) than any other player, while his seven strikes against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two against Bayern Munich, five versus City with him as manager) is also the most of any player in the competition's history.

Meanwhile, Messi has scored 27 Champions League goals against English clubs – 15 more than any other player. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against opponents of a specific nation (28, versus German teams) in Champions League history.

"I think it was amazing, his performance," Pochettino told BT Sport. "And he scored an amazing goal.

"He's the best player in the world, that is no doubt. Of course, [I am] happy to see him showing his football.

"Him and all the team worked really, really hard to achieve that victory. [It is] Never easy, they're probably the best team in the world, Manchester City. That is why we're so happy."

PSG trailed in the key stats, with City having 18-6 shots and 7-3 shots on target, but Pochettino was delighted with his side's defensive commitment.

Messi combined clinically with Kylian Mbappe for his goal, impressing Pochettino who has stressed that their attacking connection along with Neymar remains a "work in progress".

"We can do it. They showed that we want to be united, to work together," Pochettino said. "The quality is there. We have amazing quality and amazing players.

"The challenge is that all work in both phases of the game with the same capacity to suffer. Tonight we showed very good belief and I started to see the team that can work together, not only in an offensive way but a defensive one too."

On Canal Plus, Pochettino added: "They were a great strength of the team, they sought to be in the attacking sector, and the team was always well positioned. We managed to get out in transition."

The result moves PSG into top spot in Group A with four points alongside Club Brugge, who won 2-1 at RB Leipzig, while City are third with three points.

"Today was a Champions League against Manchester City, we knew that we needed to show that being solid and help each other," Pochettino said.

"But with time we will be better. We need to improve in other aspects. I'm very happy overall."

Mauricio Pochettino wants Lionel Messi to be given time to adapt to his new surroundings at Paris Saint-Germain, who are preparing to go up against "the best coach in the world" in Pep Guardiola. 

Messi has yet to score or assist in three appearances since joining PSG on a free transfer amid financial difficulties at Barcelona, but Pochettino is prepared to be patient with the iconic superstar. 

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been struggling with a knee injury of late, though he may be involved when the French club host Manchester City in a titanic Champions League clash. 

"[Messi] is progressing very well, and I think he'll be in the squad, but I don't know if he'll start," Pochettino said in his pre-match media conference ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in the French capital.  

"He's the best player in the world, but he's still a human like everyone else. He also needs to adapt to this new team, new culture and new country. He was at Barcelona for 20 years, everything is new here for him.  

"With time, I have no doubt that everything will go well and we're going to have real success together." 

The former Tottenham and Southampton boss also attempted to downplay expectations as his side chase European glory, claiming that PSG are not yet the finished article - unlike their next opponents. 

"We're a work in progress," Pochettino said. "It's not an opinion, it's a fact. We have to look at where we have come from and where we are today. 

"We're going to face Manchester City and the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola. They're a great team, a club that dreams of winning the Champions League, as we do. They're perhaps ahead of us, but anything can happen in a football match. 

"We're going to try and cause them problems with a lot of desire, determination, and also by applying our ideas and limiting their qualities, and finding weaknesses to exploit. It's a match for the players in which they can show their potential." 

Pochettino also dismissed the idea that the contest with City is their first real challenge of the season, having won all of their first eight Ligue 1 games to sit nine points clear at the top of the table. 

"A first test? I don't think so. We've had a different challenge in each game. The start of the season hasn't been easy because we have got players back gradually. Since we've had a complete squad, we've worked,” he said.

"We know the expectations on us and we know we have to work with responsibility and rigour today, not tomorrow. We have to stand up and be counted when a game comes up." 

There was also an update on the fitness of Marco Verratti, who, like Messi, is set to be part of the squad but may not be ready to start. 

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted he is not concerned by the lack of goals from his forwards after the Ligue 1 leaders beat Montpellier 2-0 on Saturday.

PSG preserved their perfect start to the season, Pochettino's men making it eight wins from eight league matches thanks to goals from Idrissa Gueye and Julian Draxler.

In the continued absence of superstar Lionel Messi (knee), Kylian Mbappe and Neymar wasted chances as midfielder Gueye and winger Draxler stepped up at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe has failed to net his last 13 shots in Ligue 1, his longest drought from shots in the top flight since August-September 2019 (16 shots).

"We created a lot of opportunities today, but they didn't score them. We leave that aside," Pochettino told reporters. "The quality we have in our team and especially with our attacking players, it's only a matter of time before they score.

"I have no doubt that they will score a lot of goals this season. Tonight, we didn't score more than two goals, that is true."

Pochettino added: "It's always important that our midfielders bring goals to the team. When our attackers are not as effective, they can deliver which is a huge bonus.

"That doesn't surprise me. But yes, it's important that the midfielders have this ability to get into the opponent's box and score."

Gueye smashed in the opener in the 14th minute in the French capital, where Draxler came off the bench and added a late second to send PSG 10 points clear atop the table.

PSG have won six consecutive Ligue 1 games against Montpellier – their longest streak against this side in the top flight. They have even won each of these games by a margin of at least two goals, only doing more in a row against a same opponent twice before against St Etienne between 1983 and 1990 (seven) and Bastia between 1984 and 2000 (nine).

French powerhouse PSG have won each of their first eight games in Ligue 1 this season. This is only the third time that it happened in the league's entire history after PSG in 2018-19 and Lille in 1936-37.

"I think the evolution is important in all aspects. I am satisfied in general. But it is normal that with more time we will improve in all areas of the game. We are satisfied that on a collective level we are showing more defensive solid," Pochettino said.

"As far as the principles of the game where possession is concerned, we are still building. But we can see improvements in many aspects. I am happy. It takes time for the players to be on the pitch and for the connections and relationships to develop. This will help us in the future."

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