Mauricio Pochettino is perfect for Manchester United with slumping giants seeking bold new identity

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·3-min read
Mauricio Pochettino is perfect for Manchester United with slumping giants seeking bold new identity
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s success in overseeing a "cultural reset" at Manchester United was influential in the decision to name him as permanent manager in 2019.

Solskjaer succeeded in lifting the gloom after Jose Mourinho's toxic endgame but what, exactly, was the culture the Norwegian instilled at Old Trafford?

For the duration of Solskjaer's reign, and particularly in these last few dismal months, United came to feel more like a nostalgia project or entertainment brand than a fully functioning football club with ambitions to win.

Solskjaer's sacking has, ironically, prompted talk of the need for another cultural reboot and perhaps a move away from the cult of Sir Alex Ferguson to a bold new identity.

If United truly want a manager who can instil a culture from the top to the bottom of the club, there is no one better than Mauricio Pochettino, which is surely one of the reasons they are so determined to prise the Argentine away from Paris Saint-Germain.

When he joined Tottenham in May 2014, Pochettino quickly changed the entire club, transforming the culture, the atmosphere and the mentality in N17.

The former Southampton boss found a gleaming, state-of-the-art training ground but Hotspur Way left him feeling cold, and he immediately set to work in making Spurs warmer and collegiate – and yet more steely, ruthless and professional.

Aided by chairman Daniel Levy’s distraction with the club's new stadium project, Pochettino influenced nearly every aspect of the football side of the club, and no one who worked at the training ground or White Hart Lane failed to notice his remarkable impact.

This is the kind of influence Pochettino wants to have on clubs – and could have for United – so it is no surprise he is eager to get away from the shadowy internal politics and inflated egos of PSG.

Manchester United are growing in confidence that Mauricio Pochettino could walk away from PSG (AFP via Getty Images)
Manchester United are growing in confidence that Mauricio Pochettino could walk away from PSG (AFP via Getty Images)

Sources at United say the new manager must tick three boxes: to play football 'the United way'; to blood young players and to compete for silverware. There is little doubt that Pochettino meets the first two requirements.

At their best, his Spurs side were far greater than the sum of their parts, playing exhilarating attacking football, based on hard running and creative flair.

Pochettino's PSG have also shown flashes of collective brilliance, notably in the latter stages of the Champions League last season, even if his preferred pressing game is so much harder to implement with a galactic front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Certainly, he is able to organise a defence and coach the highly-structured possession football that is so key to success in the modern club game in a way that Solskjaer never could.

Pochettino's record with young players also needs little embellishment. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Harry Winks all became England internationals on his watch, while he improved almost every player who worked under him at Spurs.

Pochettino reshaped Tottenham from top to bottom after arriving in 2014 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Pochettino reshaped Tottenham from top to bottom after arriving in 2014 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

His record at winning silverware remains questionable, however, particularly after PSG failed to overhaul Lille to last season's Ligue 1 title following his appointment in January.

He has, though, demonstrated that he would get a side of United's quality challenging for trophies after reaching the Champions League final with a depleted and stale Spurs squad, and twice going close to the Premier League title.

Given the way Pochettino improved Spurs, it is intriguing to think what he could do with a squad of United's quality, while a move to Manchester would rekindle his simmering rivalry with Pep Guardiola, who he will face as PSG boss in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

But there are many coaches who would improve this star-studded Red Devils team and there is a sense that what United really need is someone to transform the habits of a dysfunctional, backward-looking club.

If he is allowed to work in the way that he wants, Pochettino would be the perfect man for the job.

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