The rumour mill is fully underway following the announcement that Ole Gunnar Solskjær had been relieved of his post as Manchester United manager. With the Norwegian losing his job after a string of poor results over the last two months.
The hardest job in football management is once again available and the suitors have been linked with the club in their numbers with names such as Zinedine Zidane, Erik ten Hag, Ralf Ragnick and Luis Enrique amongst those being linked with the club.
However, it is Mauricio Pochettino who has emerged as the favourite to take the helm at Old Trafford with numerous outlets suggesting that the Argentine would be open to leaving his post with French giants PSG to take over the reins. Pochettino has long dreamt of taking charge of the red side of Manchester and as the bookies favourite for the role, he requires a closer look:Embed from Getty Images
A closer look at Mauricio Pochettino
A pupil of Marcelo Bielsa, Pochettino draws great inspiration from the man who he credits with his decision to step into coaching. “He put the seed in my brain,” Pochettino says of the man who managed him first at Newell’s Old Boys in the early 90s and again with the Argentinian national team some years later. However, it is the distinction, that Pochettino is a pupil rather than a disciple that forms the difference between the two men.
Through this education under one of football’s true purists that Pochettino cultivated his own ideas about the game. Favouring a ‘risk with knowledge’ approach, Pochettino blends the Bielsa-inspired quick offensive transitions with drilled positional play, looking to overwhelm the opponent with quick combination-heavy attacks and a relentless counter-pressing scheme.
These principles usually manifest themselves in the shape of a 4231 or a 433 with the front line sitting narrowly and the fullbacks given the license to get forward promoting the expansive style with creativity from wide.
Pochettino has on occasion utilised back 3 formations, with 343 and 3412 being utilised sporadically during his 17/18 season with Spurs. However, these were mainly utilised in games where the opposition lined up in similar systems which makes their use by the Argentinian more a display of tactical flexibility than an inclination to tinker.
Pochettino takes a very hands-on approach in regards to training, with Premier League fans now familiar with his unrelenting training methods due to his time with Spurs and Southampton. “He broke me” Rickie Lambert once remarked when quizzed about Pochettino’s famed run-heavy training sessions.
The strong approach to maintaining elite fitness levels is a means to an end for Pochettino however, with his Spurs teams famed both for their suffocating pressing as well as their ability to go deep into games to find late winners, the latter of which will be very well received should Pochettino end up in charge at Manchester United.
All this isn’t to say however that Pochettino focuses solely on turning his players into track athletes, however, as his sessions are very technical and tactical based too.
Christian Eriksen has mentioned this before: “he’s very good. He knows what the players want and knows what he wants from the players, what they have to do for him. He showed and gave us the confidence to play our own style – to play with five at the back, four at the back, three at the back…we can always change it up”.
The suitability with United goes further than late comebacks for Pochettino, with his time in the Premier League displaying a key focus on promoting and developing youth for the man given his professional debut at 17. At Southampton, Pochettino made homegrown players Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and Callum Chambers key players in his team.
This focus on youth continued at Tottenham, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, and Harry Winks all making massive strides under his charge. For a club whose ethos is firmly grounded in its desire to cultivate young talents into top stars, the likes of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Shola Shoretire, and Hannibal Mejribi would see their prospects rise further as well as young talents like Amad Diallo and Donny van de Beek who have had tough times in Manchester up until late.Embed from Getty Images
Concerns are surrounding Pochettino as Ole’s successor, with the last year or so at PSG for him not living up to the expectations set by his impressive early years with Spurs. The last two seasons he spent in the English capital leave a lot to be desired too with his side’s famous Champions League run-in 18/19 papering over the cracks of an underwhelming domestic league record followed by a horrible start in the successive 19/20 which ultimately cost him his job.
Questions remain as to whether the man seen once seen as the future of elite football management, has the capability of sitting at the table with the Klopp, Pep, Tuchel trident looking to dominate the league.
United will have to hope that his long-term desire to be the Red Devils’ boss will be the catalyst to which the Argentinian can once again hit and surpass a level of performance that saw him so close to glory with Spurs.
For United, this potential appointment will get them a figure they have long admired whose values and methods align with the clubs ’DNA’, for Pochettino, a chance to manage Manchester United and in turn, finally take his seat amongst the top managers, is too good a prospect to turn down.