POCH TO UNITED?

POCH TO UNITED?

The race for the managerial seat at Manchester United is…getting interesting. Not that there is a huge clamour of candidates, but the names being thrown up are a mixed bunch. The names heading the list include Brendan Rodgers, Zinedine Zidane, and Mauricio Pochettino as the front-runners.

 

There are quite a few complications with each of them- Rodgers has already distanced himself in the previous weeks, Zidane’s language barrier and the fact that he is still keen to complete his sabbatical, and of course, Pochettino’s current contract with PSG that expires in 2023. The most interesting case amongst the trio is with the former Spurs boss. Pochettino has been having an indifferent time with the French giants, though they are leading the title race easily.

 

There have been reports of dressing room discontent, players hurt at selections and positional logjam of late. Sir Alex Ferguson remains a keen admirer of the Argentine and it will be no surprise if Pochettino does end up as the permanent manager of United.

 

WHY UNITED WOULD WANT HIM

There’s more than one reason for the Red Devils angling for Pochettino, aside from his expertise in England. United had themselves a fantastic summer transfer window by almost all standards, but the team has been lacking coherence. The defence has hardly looked good at their job while the midfield has been completely overrun of late.

 

Pochettino demands extremely high standards from his players along with a solid alliance within the whole team. The mental demands are just as much as the physical demands, the former in great demand at Old Trafford. Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have looked lost in recent weeks, clearly suffering from a post-Euro 2020 hangover along with a deep dive in form. Fred and Scott McTominay have been overrun and overworked, their effectiveness ultimately reducing sharply.

 

Solskjaer’s “soft methods” and overdependence on the individual brilliance of players is in sharp contrast with Pochettino who signifies collective effort from everyone. Furthermore, the fact that he can get the best out of his players in training, in consultation with his trusted lieutenants in coaching has helped him excel for many years. Pochettino knows the temperament of the Premier League very well, whose standards have only increased.

 

It can be said with great certainty that he wants to challenge himself against the best, which frankly the Ligue 1 is not anymore. He will also have more involvement in decisions taken at the boardroom level, with the directors of United pretty new to those roles themselves at the club.

 

EXPERIENCE COUNTS FOR A LOT

Having made his name at Espanyol towards the latter part of the previous decade, Pochettino made his impact in England with Southampton. He led the Saints to an 8th-placed finish, their best since 2003, with 56 points (best in the Premier League era) in his only full season in charge. Needless to say, it is his time with Spurs that has catapulted Pochettino into the upper echelons of managers, despite the lack of silverware.

 

He was instrumental in turning Spurs into a regular top-four side despite working on tight funds throughout his tenure. Some of the best players that developed under Pochettino and still remain integral members include Eric Dier, Lucas Moura, Ben Davies, Dele Alli, and Son Heung-Min. Many outsiders felt Spurs regularly overachieved with the squad they had due to the antics of Harry Kane and Son, but it was a team effort.

 

Pochettino has heavily relied on getting the best out of his players no matter the opposition, and his pinnacle remains reaching the 2019 UEFA Champions League final. Though Spurs had developed a reputation for bottling the crucial moments of a season, most famously the 2015-16 league campaign where they were in with their best shot of winning the title. Since moving to PSG in 2021, things have been pretty sedate if one does not look too closely at the whole picture.

 

Pochettino has lifted two trophies, but the Ligue 1 title escaped his grasp last season. This season, the Parisians have started like a house on fire and already hold an 11-point lead at the summit but there has been a bit of tension brewing within the camp.

 

NOT THE HAPPIEST OF TIMES

Signing Lionel Messi was heralded as a major coup for PSG, but it has not been a honeymoon by any stretch. Two new signings, Gini Wijnaldum and Gigi Donnarumma have publicly voiced their frustrations at not playing enough minutes.

 

The endless talk surrounding Kylian Mbappe’s future plans has been brought up again and again. Managing all the egos has been a thankless task for the most part, with Pochettino being at his creative best to juggle the options around him. Moreover, the manager has very little say in the off-field and transfer-related activity of the club, given the all-around powers of sporting director Leonardo.

 

On a personal side, Pochettino’s wife and son are still living in London as the manager works from his hotel room. When Spurs were deep into their search for a new manager, both times in 2021, Pochettino’s name came up often since he was the man who had inspired all the successes in the first place. But with Spurs heading for Conte, it presents United with a real chance of appointing the Argentine as manager, whether immediately or next summer.

 

MORE PROS THAN CONS

Eventually, if Pochettino does arrive, he will be judged on his ability to win silverware and challenge for the title. United are currently placed 8th, already 12 points behind Chelsea. They have a job on their hands if they are to make it into the knockout rounds of the Champions League as well while already having been knocked out of the League Cup. Nevertheless, Pochettino will be a solid fit for a lot of good reasons too.

 

His teams famously press very aggressively, something that the Red Devils really need to do well at this level. His use of the 4-2-3-1 is something the players will be familiar with and Pochettino will also seek to have reassurances over future spending.

 

Additionally, he will also get more say in the board matters over personnel and plans along with continuing his famed reputation for developing young talent, another thing that United need help with. All in all, it will be a pretty great achievement if the Glazers and co. can persuade Pochettino and of course, PSG to let him join.

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