In the aftermath of the David Moyes sacking by Manchester United, the invariable carousel of names to replace the fiery Scotsman has begun in earnest.
And while the list of candidates is quite possibly of sufficient length, and considerable breadth in its variety, there is perhaps one more name that could, and to my mind should, be thrown in to the hat, at the very least.
And that is the name of Southampton FC’s Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The case for the defence… and the attack too.
Of the various names being touted in the media to successfully take up the challenge that is the Manchester United job, some may have a greater “pedigree”, but few (if any) would be more capable than Pochettino.
In his time on English soil, Mauricio Pochettino has shown himself to be one of the foremost managers not just in the UK, but one of the most astute tacticians throughout the whole of Europe.
Pochettino’s style is synonymous of the most successful modern era footballing teams. High pressing, fast transitions from defence to attack and vice versa, promotion and development of top youth talent.
The Argentine coach has proved the doubters upon his arrival to England wrong, and silenced the most ferocious of his critics, impressing even the most hardened of neutrals along the way to taking an ambitious Southampton side into the top half of the Premier league. Doing so with a clear, defined structure, and through progressive, attacking, entertaining football.
From the same alma matter as Guardiola:
The most recent bookies favourite to take up the United post is current Dutch national team coach Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal, currently being paraded as a “successful” manager with the “top pedigree” to take charge of the global giant that is Manchester United.
However the most repeated fallacy behind the Van Gaal bandwagon banded around by sections of the media, is that the Dutchman (along with fellow countryman Johan Cruyff as an initial point of reference) can be credited with much of the success behind Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona.
According to certain media experts, it was Van Gaal’s style and structure that Guardiola built his Tiki-Taka, all entertainment style upon. This is only partially true!
While it is well-known that Guardiola is a long-term student of the Dutch “Total Football.” Said style had been engrained in the Barcelona DNA well prior to the arrival Messrs’ Van Gaal or Guardiola.
It is, however, a well documented fact that as a young aspiring manager and prior to commencing his career in the dugout, Guardiola spent a considerable amount of time in Argentina. In particular, he was seeking the counsel of legendary Argentine manager Cesar Luis Menotti, and more significantly that of the acclaimed former Athletic Bilbao tactician Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa.
Indeed, there are many aspects of Bielsa’s coaching style and conduct towards the media that Guardiola has replicated within his own successful format. The Catalan boss having on several occasions publicly credited the Argentine with this, as well as stating his admiration of “El Loco’s” footballing methodology.
Why is this relevant? Well, because Pochettino himself is one of the foremost disciples of the Bielsa school of coaching. Having been given his debut by his then former coach at Argentine club side Newell’s Old Boys. He went on to have multiple playing spells under “El Loco”, both with FC Espanyol De Barcelona, and the Argentine national team.
It is well-known that Pochettino’s own footballing ethos is heavily influenced by his former mentor, thus the comparisons between their styles, and indeed that of FC Bayern Munich’s Catalan manager are never too far behind.
In truth, it would be erroneous to credit any individual other than Pep Guardiola (and his players of course) with the success of his all-conquering Barcelona team of the past half decade.
However, for accuracy’s sake, similarities would be far more adjacent with the Argentine school of thought, rather than that of the “Orange” when searching for the reasons of Bacelona’s reversal of fortunes after Pep’s takeover, incidentally taking on the job after another Dutch disciple in the form of Frank Rijkaard.
Attracting Top Players? Or Developing Top Talent:
Another important factor being mentioned as key for a successful Manchester United manager is the ability to “attract top players”.
But how salient a point would this really be? An institution like Manchester United is second to none world-wide. You only have to look at the statistics and fan base to know that players all around the world would jump at the chance to play at Old Trafford, they do not need selling on the idea. A more cogent thought process would also suggest that the Glazer family’s cautious approach throughout their tenure, would mean they would be unwilling to spend heavily on a consistent basis anyway.
This and the impending full implementation of FFP, indicate that it is more necessary to find a manager with a proven track record of developing young talent, rather than a big spender. Indeed it is the development of young players that has contributed greatly to United’s considerable success over the last two decades.
And while on this point, it would also be noteworthy that one of the numerous criticisms labelled at David Moyes, and for example in contrast to his successor Roberto Martinez at Everton FC. Is that the Spaniard has shown a greater adventure and aptitude in his development of youngsters the likes of Ross Barkley or John Stones.
It is in this facet of management, that it is patently clear that Pochettino has a proven track record in the promotion and development of youth players, both throughout his time at Espanyol, and most notably in his current successful period in charge of Southampton.
The list of young players that have either been given a chance, or whose game has moved on to the next level throughout Pochettino’s tenure at the “Saints” is one of great distinction. In fact you only have to look at both the England Senior and Under 21 teams to see his undoubted influence.
This argument could also be extended to that two of United’s reported summer targets in the form of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, who would in all certainty point to the Argentine coach as an important influence in their career to date.
Manchester’s Loss Could Be North London’s Gain:
If betting patterns are any indication, and they often are, Pochettino is unlikely to be obtained, or indeed be even seriously considered for the Manchester United job. Indications from the same sources suggesting that a move to North London in the form of Tottenham Hotspur FC this summer is more likely to be on the cards.
The question that may then come in to many people’s minds will be if United will again regret their appointment, and rue them not taking a more insightful, forward-thinking approach into their recruitment.
Many a United fan I know has often said that the Red Devils may have been on the wrong end of the deal that saw Martinez arrive at Goodison Park, and Moyes to Old Trafford under the guise of Sir Alex Ferguson’s “Chosen One”. One wonders whether a similar statement may be being made in the summer of 2015.