This article comes with the “loud slap on the wrist” caveat. Is the man really worth the troubles and budget expense that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is getting himself into?
Taking over at United at such a difficult moment for the club, especially financially, where do you start? Potential transfer fees in the Premier League have inflated to astronomical levels in recent years, and Jose Mourinho’s paying a penalty for doing so.
That is pretty simple. No matter who your boss is, if you are wanting the more talented players that the market dictates you should have that ability to do, it is your manager’s duty to prove that you are worth it. He shouldn’t be paying the price for that in the sack.
Of course, it is up to the manager and owners if they want to pay over the odds for the most coveted players, but all the statistics from United, recent and historical, show that when Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, United improved, and the club is still the best brand in world football.
The latest piece of evidence was the FA Cup fourth round replay at the weekend when Paul Pogba was the star man and they virtually drew against a Swansea side not yet totally disillusioned with their own team. He was, in the nicest possible way, brilliant in the heat of battle, even if – like everyone else – he was not 100% fit.
Pogba wasn’t great, but it says a lot about the manager that he was still such a key player on his return from his extended holiday. It is safe to say Solskjaer didn’t make that mistake, and United now have one of the best midfields in the world and an iron-clad defence. Solskjaer was brilliant for those two things, and if he can strike some kind of lucky charm effect on Luke Shaw or Marouane Fellaini, that too will be good news for United in terms of the quality of their side.
Crucially, Solskjaer made it a priority to bring in great young talent, like Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, and have a more youthful look to the side. If anything, he has found the perfect tonic for a young team. The truth is that at no stage has Solskjaer let an inexperienced or green player into the line-up. United has always been good at that.
So what of Pochettino? Has he paid the price for not making the decision to bring in big players in the summer of 2016? What about the Capital One Cup on Saturday? His record as Tottenham manager is now slightly the same as Mourinho’s: but because the capital Manchester derby has always been a game reserved for the elite – not your Manchester United or Manchester City type of teams – it would be a great shock if he came out on top with the title.
But let’s not get carried away. Pochettino has turned Spurs into one of the best teams in the Premier League in the past couple of years, and last season was the first time they played the kind of football he has now brought to the table at White Hart Lane.
This season – two matches, let’s be clear – was the kind of nasty win that Guardiola and Mourinho would be doing their best to avoid. Spurs showed that they were not too threatened by that; why did they struggle last year?
Maybe they just do not have the same depth in attacking talent in comparison to the top six and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Perhaps a bit of luck and belief in their system has changed that. Pochettino still doesn’t know how to better defend without the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele, but that was the quality in the team that won last season. He has proven once again that he can take Tottenham to another level, and win games on his own – the tactic is working.
Any change of management at Tottenham is generally followed by the club moving on and, were they ever going to miss Christian Eriksen, or Mousa Dembele, that would be on the agenda. But Pochettino has shown time and time again that he can do anything, and he deserves more time. He should get it.