Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning run as Manchester United’s interim manager is on the line against the front-runner for the job, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, when the sides meet at Wembley on Sunday.
Pochettino has long been talked of as a future United boss and the sacking of Jose Mourinho last month created a vacancy, which has been filled impressively by Solskjaer on an interim basis.
The Molde manager has set out his stall with five wins out of five and has made no secret of his desire to earn the chance to take charge permanently at the end of the season.
Pochettino, meanwhile, has shown signs of frustration with Tottenham’s transfer policy, but also said this week he could envisage staying in north London for 20 years.
But who is most equipped to earn one of the biggest jobs in football? Two Omnisport writers, Jamie Smith and Jon Fisher, make their case.
POCHETTINO – Jamie Smith
Tottenham’s 3-0 Premier League win at Old Trafford in August was a clear sign Mourinho’s star was waning, with Pochettino the coming man.
As an audition for the United job, the counter-attacking football used by Spurs in that victory may have counted against Pochettino, but he could not have failed to catch the eye of United chief executive Ed Woodward.
The 46-year-old is reportedly Woodward’s favourite for the role and it is easy to see why. He is hugely popular with players, Spurs play attractive football, he develops talent and perhaps most importantly he is a club-builder, which United desperately need in the post-Alex Ferguson era.
The lack of silverware in an otherwise superb coaching career remains a blot on Pochettino’s copybook, although Spurs may right that record in this season’s EFL Cup having earned a 1-0 lead in their semi-final against London rivals Chelsea.
But it is easy to argue Pochettino could have delivered trophies had he been given more backing in the transfer market, with Lucas Moura the only player to have joined Spurs in the past year.
Harry Kane has grown into the world’s top poacher under the Argentinian, while Christian Eriksen is now among the planet’s top playmakers, earning links to LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid – the pair spectacularly realising their potential largely down to Pochettino’s hard work.
If United want a likable manager with Premier League experience, who can work to a budget considerably smaller than that of clubs like rivals Manchester City, it is clear Pochettino is the outstanding candidate.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 10, 2019
SOLSKJAER – Jon Fisher
The role of the modern-day manager at the elite level has changed in recent years and it’s one of the reasons why Solskjaer is even in the running to take over at Manchester United for the long term.
You don’t need to be a tactical genius or an ace motivator – the key quality required is the ability to harmonise a dressing room of multi-language, multi-ethnic, multi-millionaires.
Zinedine Zidane is the best example of this. His tactics were frequently muddled – although always centred around attacking football – but the morale he fostered in his Real Madrid squad meant the players usually dug him out of a hole.
“You can talk all you want about tactics or techniques, but if you don’t have the players on your side, you won’t have the collective motivation to put a system in place or the players to make it work,” said another former Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti when asked to discuss Zidane’s secret.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 10, 2019
One look at Solskjaer at United and you can see parallels. The Norwegian is hugely popular in the dressing room and on the terraces.
He has influential players like Paul Pogba on board and firing. The result? Five successive wins.
Solskjaer is the safe choice. Bringing in Pochettino would require the players to play a different game and, like it or not, Pogba and his team-mates hold all the aces.