Forget Chelsea...Pep wants the United job - Exclusive
Published 23:59 29/11/10 By Martin Lipton
Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola will resist any potential future approach from Chelsea - because he wants to work alongside Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
Guardiola's future is clouded in doubt as he is already in the final year of his three-season deal at the Nou Camp and has yet to settle on new terms to stay in Catalonia.
But the man who ended Fergie's dream of a third European Cup by masterminding a final victory over him in Rome 18 months ago has told friends he wants to take over when the Scot calls time on his Old Trafford reign.
The former Spain and Barcelona midfielder has been linked with a possible move to Chelsea to replace Carlo Ancelotti if the Italian leaves his role at Stamford Bridge.
That comes in the wake of the looming departure of sporting director Frank Arnesen, with former Barca counterpart Txiki Begiristain, who left the Spanish champions at the start of the year, in the frame to replace the Dane.
Guardiola's agent, Josep Maria Orobitg, has briefed in Spain that he has received approaches from a number of agents, including one claiming to be representing Chelsea, to see if the Nou Camp chief wants to move.
Chelsea, who maintain, privately and publicly, that suggestions of any interest in Guardiola are "total nonsense", dismissed the idea as utterly without foundation or merit, insisting that Ancelotti retains the full and absolute backing of the Stamford Bridge hierarchy despite overseeing the club's worst run of league results since 2000.
Ancelotti has admitted he was opposed to the sacking of assistant Ray Wilkins, replaced by the unqualified Michael Emenalo, while Sunday's draw at Newcastle cost the Blues top spot to United for the first time this season.
But while Guardiola is keen to try his hand in England at some stage, it seems that his preferred destination would be Manchester, rather than London, with the dream scenario one in which he would be able to work hand in glove with Fergie.
Guardiola, who could still sign a new one-year deal but could opt to take a 12-month sabbatical at the end of the season, has told friends he is not keen on Italy, where Inter Milan would be an obvious option if Rafa Benitez is dispensed with.
The Barca boss, however, is said to have entertained the concept of taking over the United hotseat, although he would want Fergie to stay around the club as a mentor.
A Barcelona source said last night: "It seems that Pep really would be keen on working with Sir Alex, if that was possible. It would allow him to come to terms with England under the guidance of the best."
Ancelotti will have a meeting with his squad in the next 48 hours in a bid to sort out the problems that have brought just four points from their last five games, the worst league run of the Roman Abramovich era.
Stand-in skipper Didier Drogba revealed: "We're going to speak this week and try to change this because it's not normal."