Poch in, Solskjaer in: How Manchester United Could Return to the Top

Poch In, Ole In

Defeat in Istanbul on Wednesday compiled more misery on Manchester United and their under-fire boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A sensational start in Europe gave the Norwegian some respite for the time being after wins over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, but a shocking performance on their travels means it is definitely make or break this weekend, with United languishing in 15th after six games.

Now, after an insightful appearance on Monday Night Football with Sky Sports, ex-Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed he would be more than happy to return to football as long as the project he goes into is right for him.

Is it time for the Red Devils to make a move for Poch? What would this do for Solskjaer? There may be a genius solution after all.

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Poch v Solskjaer

In his five full seasons at Spurs, Pochettino only failed to finish in the top four once, which came in his debut year at the club, which was always going to be challenging. Prior to this, the Argentine got the Spurs gig by earning Southampton their highest ever Premier League points tally in his only full season at the club, in 2013/14. Pochettino achieved the same record-breaking feat with Tottenham in 2016/17, as they finished second only to a fabulous Antonio Conte Chelsea side with 86 points.

When Pochettino joined Spurs in 2014, many would never have considered them as Champions League contenders, as they struggled to even qualify for the competition. However, they became Premier League representatives under Pochettino and then some, enjoying a glorious group stage in 2017, beating Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid to top spot. A year later came their memorable run of 2018/19, which included the remarkable ties with Manchester City and Ajax on their way to a heartbreaking defeat in the final.

In that year, despite their incredible comeback in Paris in the last 16, Solskjaer saw his side convincingly beaten by Barcelona in the next round and their semi-final defeat in last year’s Europa League to Sevilla was seen as a massive missed opportunity to win the club's first trophy, post-Jose Mourinho.

Furthermore, in each of Pochettino's four seasons following his debut campaign at Spurs, the 48-year-old boasted more points in each season than Solskjaer amassed in his only full campaign last year. At the same time, the Argentine worked with a significantly weaker budget as many of the years at the club was matched with the time to move to a brand new, billion-pound stadium.

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If United want him, it's now or never

The big clubs around Europe are feeling the effect of substantial financial strain at the moment, so many played it safe this summer and delayed potential rebuilding jobs. Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid all may see widespread changes next summer, in both management and personnel after disappointing seasons last year and underwhelming starts this time around too.

Pochettino will be a name high on all potential lists drawn up by those clubs, so United may have to act fast to lure him to Manchester before the other elite clubs of Europe come calling.

Barcelona may be off the cards, given how the club are arch-rivals to Espanyol, a club the ex-Southampton man was at for 14 years in total. However, with Zidane's future always uncertain, a move to Madrid wouldn't hamper this love and identity towards Espanyol, neither would a transfer to PSG, who are currently looking very closely at Thomas Tuchel, following their two defeats from three in the Champions League.

Pochettino is a wanted man. It might be now or never if United are to both capture him, and salvage their season.

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Solskjaer looks perfect to kill United's desperation for a director of football

Even though they have underperformed on the pitch on many occasions, Solskjaer has made some very astute signings and brought through promising youth products, and keeping him at the club to work alongside Pochettino may be a masterstroke by the club.

The introduction of Mason Greenwood has turned into one of Europe's most notable rises, as he looks like one of the best finishers in the league already as a teenager. Elsewhere, the astronomical development of Marcus Rashford has seen him score more goals than ever, domestically, on the continent and internationally.

The high-profile signing that everyone reveres is, of course, Bruno Fernandes, who already plays that Christian Eriksen-esque role at United that Pochettino found so much success with alongise the Dane. Donny van de Beek also looks a brilliant signing for the future after his performances for Ajax, but his great potential has yet to be unleashed in England, whilst the likes of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka show clear intent at building young (often British) youth.

Bringing on Solskjaer back in December 2018 had one main selling point to it, outside of any sort of tactical nouse: he knows the club. This comes at the same time United become desperate for a director of football, so deals for Jadon Sancho don't slip away, despite the fact both he and the club were willing to sell.

Now, having Solskjaer move up to the directors' box and have Pochettino one the sidelines doesn't just look like improving the current squad, but spectacular, astute business for the future and then some.

Improvement is needed, and Pochettino is proven at this level and within Europe. Whether he is the name who can bring together an often dysfunctional group of players is unknown, but you would do well to find many managers currently unemployed with the capabilities of the Argentine. If Ed Woodward is serious about getting United back to the very top, moving Solskjaer to oversee the actual football side of things - rather than have himself take the reigns - would not just allow a title-competing manager to take the helm, but also give United exactly what they need behind the scenes: a football brain, sprinkled with the United ethos and Sir Alex Ferguson blueprint for success.

By Andrew Delaney

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