Why Mauricio Pochettino should take Manchester United forward
Manchester United started life after José Mourinho in brilliant fashion. The players were on fire in hitting unfortunate Cardiff City for five. The free-flowing, relentlessly attacking football with results to show brought to mind the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. It was the first time the club scored five goals in a Premier League match since the Scottish manager left in 2013. It also turned out to be the best way to welcome new interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the Old Trafford hot seat. Doing it against his former side made it even more special for the Norwegian manager.
The problem is one game is not enough to judge the United legend or any manager for that matter. There's still a long way to season's end. Trailing fourth-place Arsenal by eight points, there is work to be done. The team must win consistently and hope that one team above them falters badly.
It's not an impossible task. We're barely at the campaign's halfway stage. So much is unwritten between now and June. The league is not won in December as current table-toppers Liverpool found out in 2014. In the same vein, top four places are not left in stockings by Santa either.
Solskjaer's reputation does not suggest he is the best man for the long-term. For sure, I'll root for him if he surpasses expectations with breathtaking football that takes the club not only to the top four but the later stages of other competitions. He's already proven he can win both as a player and manager.
Leading Molde to the league title twice in the Norwegian top flight is a considerable achievement. But he has not proved himself as a top-class manager at a top club in a top league. His first attempt at management with Cardiff in the Premier League in 2014 ended in disappointment. The club was relegated under his watch.
Manchester United is not a club for experiments or learning on the job. It's a place for a proven manager ready for the big time, someone with sufficient experience to coax the best from players match in match out, a boss whose experience and ambition allow him to hit the ground running and return the biggest, most successful club in England to where it belongs: atop the Premier League.
Okay, Solskjaer has at least hit the ground running but Mauricio Pochettino fits the bill and ticks all the boxes.
Here's a manager who has proven himself as a top-class coach in England for years. He built a reputation for himself in Spain by leading Espanyol to victory over Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in the Catalan derby.
Then he moved to Southampton where he turned the Saints into a formidable force that frequently had the better of top-six sides in matches. He delivered a top-eight finish in the league in 2014, So'ton's highest league position since 2003. The club also finished with the highest point tally since the Premier League rebranding in 1992. That earned him a well-deserved move to Tottenham.
Since taking over the North London club, the Argentine has turned the side into a consistent title challenger. In each of his last three campaigns as Tottenham boss, he has qualified for the Champions League. That's a feat that has become more and more difficult to accomplish in the Premier League as Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte discovered last term. Remarkably, he has achieved this while working for a boss who spends considerably less than his rivals.
Despite failing to spend in the past summer transfer window at all, Spurs are one of three teams in the title race. With no reinforcements following a World Cup year, critics expected Tottenham to fade quickly. Instead, they're six points off unbeaten Liverpool's torrid pace and just two behind defending champions Manchester City.
@SkySportsNews reporter unable to ask Mauricio Pochettino about links to Manchester United job.
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The Lillywhites achieved some remarkable results this fall under Pochettino's tutelage. Beating José Mourinho's Man United 3-0 at Old Trafford certainly ranks up there. With their backs against the wall, the players went to the Camp Nou and held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw, shouldering open the closing door leading to the Champions League knockout rounds.
The recent 2-0 defeat of bitter rivals Arsenal in their own backyard to make the League Cup semifinal demonstrates Pochettino is a manager for the big time. Unsurprisingly, he was linked to the Paris Saint-Germain job before Thomas Tuchel was hired and has long been touted as a future Real Madrid boss. Displaying loyalty to Spurs, he signed a new long-term contract with the club. But he has been reluctant to deny his interest in the Manchester United job.
To be doubly sure their manager is not swayed by the current speculation and media frenzy, Tottenham took matters into their own hands. The club's head of communications, Simon Felstein, prevented reporters from asking Pochettino questions about alleged interest from Manchester United in his services.
Call that desperate measures to keep their manager if you like, it's clear the club understands they have one of the best managers in the game today and are ready to go to any length to hold onto him.
Despite Pochettino's experience, he is still young. That's also a huge advantage. United needs a manager who can be there for the long-term if they are to revive Ferguson's legacy.
Under the 46-year-old, Tottenham play fast-paced attacking football that is a joy to watch. Sunday's 6-2 mauling of Everton at Goodison Park is a case in point. That is a style of play that will be welcome on Manchester's red side, just as it's yielding sweet fruits in the blue. By hiring Mauricio Pochettino, Manchester United will finally possess a long-term manager who will marry good football with the possibility of winning trophies again.