Mauricio Pochettino FA Cup semi final
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Can Mauricio Pochettino Lead Manchester United’s New Era?

For a long time, Mauricio Pochettino looked like a man destined to be Manchester United’s manager. Sir Alex Ferguson liked him; his work in developing youth talent was evident, and his teams always played an attacking brand of football.

In 2022, it was a straight race between him and Erik ten Hag to be the next Manchester United manager. United hierarchy opted for the Dutch coach and the Argentine manager waited a suitable opportunity , thus leading him to Chelsea dugout.

With INEOS now in control of football operations at Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag on the hot seat, the same question arises again: Is Mauricio Pochettino destined to be Manchester United’s new manager?

Mauricio Pochettino: A Successful Start to His Career

He started his managerial career at one of his former clubs, Espanyol. The Argentine coach has managed to save the club from relegation and imposed a clear tactical imprint from the youth level to the senior level.

His work then caught Southampton’s eye. Under his tenure, Southampton achieved their highest-ever points tally in the Premier League. Southampton also achieved their highest finish since 2002–2003 under his guidance when they finished eighth.

His work in Southampton took him to Tottenham, who achieved their highest points tally and their highest Premier League finishing position under him. Also, Tottenham were a constant Champions League team and reached a UEFA Champions League final.

Yet he failed to win anything with Tottenham, which always raised questions about his ability to win trophies. Due to a lack of transfers and financial constraints, his tenure at Tottenham ended badly.

These stints at various clubs led everybody to believe that Pochettino was destined to be one of football’s great coaches, and this has led him to take over one of his former clubs: Paris Saint Germain.

The Start of a Decline

A lot of people questioned his fit with the PSG squad. How could a manager who embraces high-pressing football work with three stars that don’t do any defensive work? Yet, his period at PSG started brilliantly, getting to the UEFA Champions League semifinals and knocking out the reigning champions Bayern Munich in Paris.

Everything started going off the rails in the second season. During a visit to Manchester with his PSG team, he started getting questions about Manchester United’s job. It was clear he was not comfortable in the PSG job and his fate was sealed when PSG lost to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions league round of 16.

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This led him to take a Chelsea job, which seemed like a perfect fit for his style of management. A young, inexperienced team for him to mould to his liking. The only question was: How would Chelsea fans think of a Tottenham Legend leading their new era?

Things did not start well for him at Chelsea and his relationship with the fanbase started to deteriorate. At the start of 2024, Chelsea has turned a corner. They finished fourth in terms of points won in 2024, advanced to the Carabao Cup final, and lost to Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final despite being the superior team on the field.

One would argue that only bad finishing and individual errors led to missing UEFA Champions League qualification, winning the Carabao Cup and being in an FA Cup Final because the team’s underlying metrics have been good all season.

The Argentine manager guided a young, inexperienced Chelsea team—who barely played with each other—to European qualification, reclaiming his reputation in the process.

Also, players posts on social media after the news of him leaving show how much he was loved in Chelsea dressing room.

After a period where his career looked like it was declining, it looked like the last six months and the way Chelsea managed to finish the season restored a bit of his reputation.

The revival has led to this question rising again: Is Mauricio Pochettino destined to be Manchester United manager?

The Manchester United Traditions

In all his career, the Argentine manager did everything required from a Manchester United manager. He developed young talent in Southampton, Tottenham, and Chelsea, his teams always played an attacking brand of football and he looked like a manager who could stay in the same job for a long period of time.

From his development of Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, and Morgan Schneiderlin in Southampton to Moussa Dembele, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Son Heung Min in Tottenham to his work with Nicolas Jackson, Cole Palmer and Connor Gallagher in Chelsea; his imprint in developing youth is clear in all his jobs.

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In 2023/2024, Chelsea scored 102 goals in all competitions. In 2016–17, Tottenham had the highest goal difference in the league and scored the most goals (86). The following season, Tottenham scored 76 goals in the league season alone.

Looking at his tenure in Tottenham and Chelsea, his team never ranked lower than 5th in the expected points table or lower than 5th in the expected goals table.

Also, he helped stabilise his Tottenham team during the building of the New White Hart Lane, which resulted in financial constraints affecting the club in the market.

So the fit with Manchester United traditions is clearly obvious for everybody to see, but would he fit the current Manchester United squad and INEOS project?

The Perfect Fit for Manchester United

In Tottenham, the Argentine manager have proved that he can guide a dysfunctional club to stability. He managed to stay at Tottenham for a long period and achieve more than proven winners like Conte and Mourinho managed to do.

In Chelsea, he guided a young, inexperienced team to stability despite a rocky start and a board that clearly does not know what it wants.

Looking at Manchester United, the club is passing by a period of huge changes in terms of ownership and squad. Yet, some players in the squad fit what Pochettino does like a glove.

In Rasmus Hojlund, is a young striker with huge pressure, intensity, and potential to develop like he did with Kane.

In Rashford, he has a winger similar to that of Son Heung Min. In Kobbie Mainoo, he has his own young Moussa Dembele.

In Andre Onana, he has arguably the best goalkeeper in playing with his feet and progressing play. An energetic and extremely creative no.10 like Bruno Fernandes would do wonders in Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Furthermore, Manchester United is starting to regain the brilliance of its academy. Some young talents are emerging in Harry Amass, Ethan Wheatley, Shea Lacey, and the Ibagimov brothers. The first team squad also has two talented wingers, Alejandro Garnacho and Amad Diallo. All of these players would benefit from the Argentine’s touch with young talents.

With an overhaul expected for the Manchester United squad, the players expected to remain, such as Rashford, Bruno, Garnacho, Amad, Mainoo, Onana, and Hojlund, are a perfect fit for his methods.

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The expected blend between youth and experience, with the abundance of talent rising in the academy, would be perfect for the Argentine’s coaching philosophy.

Also, INEOS is expected to renovate or build a new Old Trafford, which may constrain the club’s financial ability. Therefore, Pochettino’s experience in leading a team during a period of transition between stadiums would be handy.

Adding to that, INEOS management will take the direction of signing young emerging talent that would need development, an area in which Pochettino excels. Pochettino will be extra motivated to prove himself and fully reclaim his reputation after the mess at Chelsea.

This make him a perfect fit for a new ownership that wants to prove itself as worthy owners of Manchester United and wants to get the club back to winning ways.

Another point of emphasis of INEOS’s new strategy is looking at the South American market. Who is better to help this young talent acclimatise to the demands of English football and English culture than a guy who had to do this transition himself and has Spanish as his first language?

INEOS will need time to correct the damage created by the Glazers to the club, which may affect Manchester United’s ability in the transfer market in the next 1-2 years. They would need a manager that can put a competent team on the pitch with limited resources, something Pochettino has proven he can do in his Tottenham tenure.

It may be Pochettino’s luck that he did not get the Manchester United job when it was available last time, so he would not be burned by the Glazers mismanagement. The Argentine manager’s failure to win major trophies consistently during his career will always be the stick that his critics use to diminish him, but maybe destiny is finally smiling on him and giving him the job that always looked tailor made to him.

Only this time, that job will come under a competent football structure that wants to win and is there to help, not hinder him.

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