This has seemed inevitable for some time, and even more so following back-to-back defeats for Manchester United against Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir – Mauricio Pochettino looks to be back in the frame to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A report today from the Manchester Evening News claims Pochettino has been approached by Man Utd and he wants the job, which he’s had his eye on for some time.
Solskjaer always looked a bit of a risky appointment, and despite some good work during his time at Old Trafford, there simply hasn’t been enough progress for a club with this level of ambition and expectation.
After a string of poor managerial appointments since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, will Pochettino really be any different? Here’s four reasons we think so…
United have been all over the place at the back this season, despite spending big on the likes of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in recent times, with clearly talented players like Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw massively under-achieving.
After conceding six goals at home to Tottenham recently, United were absolutely dire last night as they gave Demba Ba the entire freedom of their half of the pitch to score for Istanbul, and it’s clear something needs to change.
At Spurs, Pochettino did some fine work to turn his team into one of the most solid and hard-to-beat sides in the Premier League, with the best defensive record in the top flight in 2016/17, and the joint-best the year before that. Yes, he had Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen as his centre-backs, but they weren’t playing at quite that high a level until he came along.
On top of that, Tottenham still played attractive football under Pochettino, so the Argentine should be able to help make this team more solid without compromising the flair of their attacking talent like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
Improving young players
One of the best things Pochettino will be remembered for at Tottenham was his ability to get talented young players to fulfil their potential and step up a level.
Some of his best Spurs sides were, at the time, pretty youthful, containing the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Son Heung-min performing at a very high standard before what most would call their ‘peak’ years.
At United, Pochettino would have similarly promising youth to work with, with Mason Greenwood a prime example, but also Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams plus the likes of James Garner and Tahith Chong who are currently out on loan.
Not overly dependent on the transfer market
Because of his ability to get the best out of young players and generally improve most of the stars he’s working with, Pochettino never really relied too much on the transfer market during his time at Spurs.
Of course, some would argue he could’ve done with more support by the end as he perhaps needed to refresh a side that looked to be going stale, but he’s still clearly capable of doing a lot without needing a flurry of big-name, big-money signings.
Solskjaer may well be frustrated at United’s poor recent record in the transfer market, with ESPN noting that none of his transfer targets were delivered this summer, and it’s certainly far from ideal for any coach to be in that situation.
Still, if you’re as good as Pochettino, it’s not going to make as big a difference as it is for Solskjaer, who must also shoulder the blame for failing to get the best out of the big players who have come in under him.
An elite coach in his prime
As well as Solskjaer, none of the managers brought in post-Ferguson have really looked the right choice at all, so why would this be any different?
David Moyes did impressive work at Everton and perhaps earned his stab at a bigger job, but it’s a very different challenge managing Man Utd and it showed. Quite simply, he’s not ‘big six’ material and the hope that he might be some second coming of Ferguson was rather foolish wishful thinking.
Louis van Gaal was unlike Moyes in having great pedigree in the game when he joined, but the rather different problem was that he already looked past it at the highest level of management. Much of his best work had been many years ago at Barcelona, with a few more ups and downs in recent times that made him a bit of a gamble for the club during a difficult period.
Jose Mourinho was similar, with the Special One just quite clearly not that special anymore. Had he taken over from Ferguson, things could have gone very differently for him, but he arrived on the back of a nightmare end to his spell at Chelsea and seems to have lost that aura that gave him such command over the biggest names in world football earlier in his career.
Pochettino is, quite simply, like none of these – he is an elite coach in the prime of his game. Expectations will be higher at United than at Tottenham, but, for the reasons above, he’s very much the real deal and now is his time to take the hot seat at Old Trafford.