What has Mauricio Pochettino done to warrant taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United?
To read some of the fawning drivel that’s spouted about a bloke who was sacked by Espanyol and then took over a more than adequate Southampton team from Nigel Adkins, there’s an obvious follow-up.
Who looks after his public relations?
Whoever they are, I can think of a few politicians right now who could do with the reputational makeover of the kind that has made the Argentinian the only go-to man whenever the Norwegian’s future is concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, were yours truly in charge at Old Trafford, the great Scandinavian goalscorer wouldn’t be in the hot-seat.
But that’s not the issue. Pochettino is.
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It’s difficult to distance myself from it – but what am I missing here?
Were it an essay, it would be entitled: ‘Pochettino is the most over-hyped manager going. Discuss.’
It’s nothing personal. He’s a personable character. Very pleasant. Charming.
I’ve sat in plenty of press conferences, heard from people behind the scenes what a hard-working individual he is and how he has turned Spurs from also-rans into…what exactly?
Also-rans at a slightly higher level. So, ‘Executive also-rans.’
But also-rans, nevertheless.
Manchester United is meant to stand as a beacon of excellence. It’s a magnet for incompetence at the moment.
From the head honcho downwards, it’s drifting towards the rocks. Burdened by players who don’t either appear to care, play when they feel like it, simply aren’t good enough or are suffering a crisis of confidence.
Or a combination of all four.
None of the clubs Pochettino walked into were broken like Manchester United appears to be.
Three weeks ago, a performance witnessed by yours truly at St James’s Park had me convinced that nothing was terribly wrong.
Newcastle were lucky not to be on the end of an almighty thumping. Karl Darlow played out of his skin.
Fast forward to this week and they were second best to a team in Turkey that was being formed about the same time as Mark Robins was saving Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at the City Ground.
Then, they produce that in Turkey. It’s difficult to sum up the goal Demba Ba scored. ‘Gross negligence’ perhaps does it best.
Ferguson would have set tea-cups, boots and, probably, fists flying in the visitors’ dressing-room.
Solskjaer? He would have done well to have uttered an expletive afterwards. It’s all so damned nice.
Unless the former striker develops some teeth, he’s going to be out of a job.
And is Pochettino really the only cab on the rank?
When he took over in 2014, Spurs were 12 months on from selling Gareth Bale.
Few of the men brought in since then have been at a level. Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela have fallen short.
Paulinho was voted the worst player ever to wear the shirt. Only Christian Eriksen stood the test of time.
Pochettino was bequeathed Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Eric Dier.
No-one foresaw the rise of Harry Kane which has been little short of spectacular. He, more than anyone, is owed a chunk of gratitude by his former boss.
Dele Alli arrived 12 months’ later – thanks to David Pleat’s donkey-work – and Pochettino would have known Toby Alderweireld from his time at Southampton. If, indeed, he was asked about that signing.
He has to be given credit for sorting the wheat from the chaff. For promoting those he saw as worthy and gelling them into a coherent whole. That may be key in Manchester.
But let’s have it right. In the much-quoted Champions League run, if Raheem Sterling’s last-minute goal wasn’t overturned at Manchester City, the miracle of Amsterdam would never have happened.
And anyway, Spurs lost in the final to Liverpool.
Pochettino has never managed a side that has lifted a trophy. At the moment, then, he might fit like a hand-in-glove at Manchester United.
Should Mauricio Pochettino be Man Utd’s next manager? Have your say here.
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