Aston Villa target Remi Garde close to realising his Premier League dream

On Sunday, former Lyon manager Remi Garde was looking forward to paying a visit to Old Trafford, where he would commentate on Manchester United vs. Manchester City for French television

Over the last 16 months, Garde hasn't missed much of the action in the Premier League, partly due to the work commitment he took up after leaving Lyon, but also because it is his favourite league by some way and the one in which he has always dreamed to coach.

As it transpired, Garde never made it to Manchester and the French public didn't hear his voice commentating on the Manchester derby. The reason? Well, he is now the odds-on favourite to land the Aston Villa manager's job so you can put two and two together!

The aftermath of Tim Sherwood's sacking, which was announced hours before the Manchester derby, led to a change in Garde's plans. Instead of taking a position on the TV gantry, he began talks with the Villa hierarchy.

It is no surprise that Garde, 49, tops the wish list of club owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Tom Fox. Around Europe, Garde is seen as a bright and promising manager and, last season, was offered the chance to replace Alan Pardew at Newcastle. He turned the offer down. Garde was also approached by Sunderland recently, while German clubs also made enquiries over the summer.

With Lyon, Garde finished fourth, third and fifth in Ligue 1 between 2011 and 2014. He also won the French Cup in 2012, as well as the French Community Shield in the same year and then, two years later, took the team to the Europa League quarterfinal against Juventus.

Garde achieved all of this on a tight budget, as he had to compensate for the previously lavish spending by some of his managerial predecessors to balance the books. With no say, he saw Jeremy Toulalan, Miralem Pjanic, Hugo Lloris, Cris, Kim Kallstrom, Dejan Lovren and Lisandro Lopez leave.

In return for losing his best and most dependable players, Garde turned to the club's academy and gave Nabil Fekir, Clinton Njie, Jordan Ferri and Rachid Ghezzal their first professional contracts. He also launched Alexandre Lacazette's career.

Lyon played good football under Garde and club chairman Jean-Michel Aulas rated his manager so highly that he almost begged him to stay. Such was the esteem in which Garde was held that Bernard Lacombe, the club's former striker and now officially Aulas' advisor (but actually more like the club's sporting director) had a nickname for him: "Remi Gardiola".

Apart from losing on penalties to Apoel Nicosia in the 2011-12 Champions League last 16 and a League Cup final loss against PSG in 2014, Garde's time at Lyon was a success. He was one of the club's favourite children, a prodigy who had been club captain at 22 before one day returning as manager.

But after three years in charge, following many years as, among other job, academy director and first-team coach, he could not continue. He was physically and mentally drained. The pressure took its toll and the expectation, combined with the lack of resources, made for a challenging time at the club. In 2014 he decided not to renew his contract and take a sabbatical.

Lyon's 2014-15 campaign, which saw them finish second in Ligue 1 under Hubert Fournier, came from a solid foundation as Garde's legacy lived on. "Lyon benefits now from the quality of his work. It was a job where he was a lot under pressure because in Lyon the demands are very high, but he did very well" said Arsene Wenger last summer.

Garde and Wenger go back a long way. In 1996, alongside Patrick Vieira, Garde was Wenger's first signing at Arsenal and stayed three seasons at the club. Like Wenger, the midfielder had previously played for Strasbourg.

The two men had endless talks about tactics, managing and the evolution of the game through the years. They have always remained in contact and Wenger would no doubt be delighted to see one of his disciples getting the Villa job. For Garde, Wenger is more than a mentor. He is the perfection, the path to follow, the guide.

Garde has no Premier League experience as a manager but nor did Wenger. As a modern-day comparison, Slaven Bilic is proving at West Ham that it is not an issue. If a manager is good enough, he will succeed.

Garde's knowledge of English football stands him in good stead and he feels ready to take on the Villa challenge. Villa want him too and the only foreseeable issue is that he wants to take his two former assistant managers from Lyon -- Gerald Baticle and Bruno Genesio -- with him.

The problem is that they are still part of the technical staff at Lyon, who don't want to let them go, especially after each of them signed a new deal with a pay rise last summer. Could Garde accept the Villa job alone? It is hard to say. He is desperate to come back to management and sees this as a great opportunity.

His last game in England as Lyon manager was in the Europa League Round of 32 against Tottenham on Valentine's Day 2013. Aston Villa's next league game? Away to Tottenham.