MATT BARLOW: Mauricio Pochettino is perfect for the Manchester United hotseat – he is a demanding boss and values chemistry, while he has shown he can handle managing big names
- Mauricio Pochettino is an excellent option to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
- Pochettino possesses impressive leadership skills and values chemistry
- The Argentine has showed at PSG that he can work with big name players
- There may also be a desire for Pochettino to rejoin his family in England
Mauricio Pochettino was on the short list when Manchester United sacked Louis van Gaal and figured even more prominently as they sought a successor to Jose Mourinho.
So it makes perfect sense that he remains in their sights to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Pochettino lost out to Mourinho’s pedigree and experience, and then, two and a half years on, to the emotional appeal of Solskjaer, but he is better equipped than ever to step into the job at Old Trafford if they can extract him from Paris Saint-Germain.
Mauricio Pochettino is an impressive leader and would be a perfect fit for Manchester United
And how United could do with a leader of his ilk to step in, cast an eye over their expensive and inefficient squad, and shape it for a future in pursuit of past glories.
Pochettino is demanding, with a tight inner circle of trusted staff. As a protege of Marcelo Bielsa, he expects players to train hard, run far and perform with intensity. His pre-season sessions are notoriously tough.
He values chemistry within the group and those not with him are against him. When he arrived at Tottenham from Southampton in 2014, he quickly worked out those not pulling his way and bombed them out of the club.
Instead, he devoted his energies to those open to his ideas and together they evolved quickly as he nurtured young players, including Harry Kane.
Pochettino guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2019 and values chemistry
Five years on, as they prepared for the Champions League final, Pochettino had his players address their fears by walking on hot coals and snapping arrows with the tips pressed against their throats.
Bonds of trust were forged and Spurs thrilled fans as they competed for titles and reached cup finals and semi-finals with an exciting style of football.
The absence of major trophies counted against him when Mourinho landed the United job in 2016, but Mourinho’s subsequent struggles at Spurs may have cast this in a different light.
Pochettino, meanwhile, has moved on to claim the French Cup with PSG and they are 11 points clear at the top of the league after just 14 games, having finished second behind Lille last season.
And, yes, they really should be with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe up front, but this was always the other question mark about him as a potential United boss.
Pochettino has shown he can work with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe
Pochettino, who could not handle big personalities according to his critics, has spent the last 11 months handling some of the biggest in the world.
‘The most important thing is to be natural, genuine and spontaneous in the way we manage them,’ he told Sportsmail in April.
Neymar, in particular, has responded to Pochettino’s warmth but PSG are a complicated club and, despite the incredible riches and wealth of talent, there are attractions to returning to the Premier League.
The Argentine still has family living in England, which could be another reason for him to join
There is the quality of competition, the challenge of taking on Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte, and the seductive possibility of being the one who restores pride at United, one of the clubs he has dreamed of managing.
Another powerful force in play for the 49-year-old Argentine will be a desire to reunite his family in England. Pochettino has spent 2021 living in a hotel in Paris with his son Sebastiano, a fitness coach at PSG, while wife Karina still lives in north London with their other son Maurizio, who plays for Watford’s Under 23s.
There were rumblings of disquiet when he was linked with a return to Tottenham after Mourinho’s sacking, which prompted PSG to trigger a clause extending his contract for another year.
‘We didn’t extend the contract,’ Pochettino tellingly told the Mail on Sunday ahead of PSG’s trip to take on Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.
‘The club used this clause to take up the option.’