Opinion

Man Utd manager: Mauricio Pochettino can feel hard done by if overlooked

Will Ford
Ten Hag appears to have more support than Pochettino
Ten Hag appears to have more support than Pochettino / 90min
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After months and months (and months) of speculation, it appears Erik ten Hag will be appointed as Manchester United's next permanent manager, succeeding interim boss Ralf Rangnick this summer.

The club's interest in the Ajax boss is logical, as is the fans' intrigue. A young, dynamic manager playing football the right way, Ten Hag has earned his stripes at a big European team and is now ready for one of the biggest jobs in world football.

That may be seen as disrespectful to Ajax and a typical case of Premier League pedestalling, but it's a similar situation to Jurgen Klopp moving from Borussia Dortmund, a big European team, to Liverpool, a sleeping giant in need of a revamp. The scope for glory with United, as it has proven to be for Klopp at Liverpool, is greater than it is at Ajax.

But as was the case with Klopp, we don't know how Ten Hag will adapt to the Premier League. Given the state of United at the moment, failure seems just as likely as success. There's uncertainty, but that's part of the draw. Like following a band from performing to no-one in a grotty suburban pub to a sell-out stadium tour, there's joy in the discovery.

The mystique surrounding his appointment also raises the question of why Mauricio Pochettino, the darling of European football management a couple of years ago, has been written off and readily discarded by so many as a credible option.

Weirdly, Pochettino's Premier League experience with Southampton and Spurs, who he also steered to the Champions League final don't forget, may actually have counted against him.

United would have a better idea of what they would be getting by appointing Poch, but the possibility of getting something better, despite Ten Hag not being tried and tested in the 'top five' leagues, appeals in spades full. His ceiling could be higher, but by that same logic, his nadir could be lower.

Pochettino remains the man who's never won anything, despite that not actually being the case. Paris Saint-Germain won the Coupe de France last season and will win Ligue 1 at a canter this term, but those don't count, apparently.

If anything, moving to the French giants has worsened his reputation. Not winning Ligue 1 last season was seen as some sort of criminal act, while they embarrassed themselves in defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League last month. He's underachieved in Paris. But then all managers have – it's the Champions League or bust at PSG.

He's not a "serial underachiever" as Jamie Redknapp claimed on Sky Sports. Pochettino led both Espanyol and Southampton from the bottom half to eighth place finishes and Spurs competed in the Champions League for four seasons on the bounce under his watch, with one campaign ending in final defeat to Liverpool. If anything, he's a serial overachiever.

And his time at PSG shouldn't count against him. Could any manager win the Champions League with that team? Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi are a blessing individually but a curse combined. They can win you a game in a moment, but only if the rest of the team carries them for the rest of the 90 minutes. Defending with just seven outfield players is an incredibly tough task in the modern game.

United clearly want a legacy manager: a Sir Alex Ferguson; a Jurgen Klopp. But that legacy boss doesn't have to be plucked from relative obscurity in the same manner. Risks that pay off will always make success that bit sweeter, but are United, who would take success however it comes, really in a position to take that kind of chance?

Pochettino has been condemned as a 'safe pair of hands' as though that's a bad thing, but his experience and the stability he proffers should be coveted not deplored at a time in which United must get their next appointment right.

Ten Hag could be the best, there's no questioning that, but Pochettino is less likely to be the worst.

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