Why Mauricio Pocchetino is rightly titled 'The new Fergie'
May 8, 2013.
It was on this date, that the news broke out. The news that no Manchester United fan across the world ever wanted to hear. Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager to have graced the English first division, had announced his retirement after 27 years of being affiliated with the red side of Manchester.
The footballing community erupted into the discussion as to who shall succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, or 'Fergie' as he was fondly referred to, and take over the reins of power at Manchester United.
A variety of suggestions came into the fray, with Jose Mourinho and David Moyes being the two names ushered strongly by the media and club sources alike. Putting an end to the saga, David Moyes who had done a creditable job in steadying the ship at Everton and taking the Merseyside side to its most successful period in recent times was named by his fellow Scot, Fergie himself, as his successor at Manchester United.
What followed was tragically anti-climatic. A season of misery was what followed Fergie's title-winning squad with Moyes being scrutinized for every mistake he made, in what was possibly the most closely observed managerial reign in English football history, thanks to the weight of the legacy that he took over.
Finally, Moyes parted ways with the club to be replaced by Louis Van Gaal after his heroics with the Netherlands at the 2014 Fifa World Cup. This move also didn't go to plan in what can be identified as a long glum period at the red half of Manchester. The Red Devils looked like they had lost balance in the race to English glory and had fallen behind their 'noisy neighbours' with respect to the bragging rights at Manchester.
Currently, Manchester United are going through another transitional stage, and this time finally it is looking positive for them. But it has also come to mark the end of the fast-paced attack-minded philosophy that was associated with Manchester United to be replaced by the pragmatic, tactically sound style of football that is characteristic of any Jose Mourinho team.
At this point, the question still remains, as to who is the 'next Fergie'. The answer is not in Manchester, to the dismay of United fan. But one has to look only as far as North of London where an Argentine manager has been capturing the attention of the football community far and wide with his tactical acumen.
Mauricio Pochettino or 'Poch' has been lauded for the brilliant work he has done at Tottenham Hotspur, where he has developed a squad capable of challenging for the league from scratch, with the results slowly showing. Under Poch, Spurs finished above their neighbour's Arsenal in the final league table after what seemed like an eternity of ridicule at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino, like Ferguson, is credited for his belief in youngsters and giving them game time and bringing the best out of them (Read Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Harry Winks etc) and for having his teams play flamboyant football with a strong defence to hold them straight in the face of tough opposition.
Even at his time at Espanyol and Southampton, Poch was renowned for playing an attractive brand of football with an often sturdy backline which comprised intelligent, ball-playing defenders instead of burlesque tacklers who would just do the bare minimum of getting the ball away from goal. But it was after his move to North London that Pochettino came under the spotlight majorly.
Pochettino moved to Spurs at a time where the team was undergoing a very inconsistent spell, in terms of results and personnel. To see how Spurs have progressed, from then till now, into regular title challengers with a squad which doesn't see much change unless there are any injury concerns is absolutely incredible.
The cloud of ridicule over Spurs is gone now and an aura of strength has been formed. Pochettino's success at Spurs is more than the introduction of a wonderful high-press and flexible formations, but also the successful introduction of umpteen youngsters into the first team with great structure. If anyone owes anything to Spurs and Pochettino, it has to be Gareth Southgate, whose prospects for the World Cup in 2018 consists of quite a big number of them.
Compare this to United, when Ferguson took over. In a state of turmoil, the giants of Old Trafford were in ruins and were overshadowed by famous rivals Leeds United, Arsenal and Liverpool. The 'Sleeping giants' as United were rightly called then, were awakened to life by the Scot, who had previously guided Aberdeen to league success in Scotland. Ferguson built a team with a strong British core, with foreign flair brought in to provide sheen to his squad.
Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney... The list of players introduced to the first team by Fergie to great success goes on and on. Ferguson's trust in youngsters was unparalleled at his time and to make a squad of consistent title challenging quality including these youngsters, was remarkable and Pochettino's incredible work in doing the same in the tougher modern conditions where Daniel Levy and board consistently demand results is further demanding and is comparable to that of Fergie's at Manchester United.
These are two managers who believed in playing beautiful football rather than being supremely tactical. They form very organized squads who work very well together, in a coordinated fashion, but provide options for their players to express themselves in the final third, something that has clearly worked for both parties.
Their insistence on building a sturdy defence to stabilise and build the team on, has worked incredibly well for both parties. Fergie's Vidic-Ferdinand pairing or his usage of Stam at the middle worked really well and helped him reap rewards by being resilient at the back. For Poch on the other hand, Alderweireld and Vertonghen look like the best duo in the league, and have cleared their lines and saved Spurs from humiliating losses, time and again.
Their discipline and consistency, while maintaining a good relationship with the board and players and not inciting any player trouble, is another aspect that is common to both of them. They are true managers, rather than head coaches, with their man management abilities being a level above that of their contemporaries.
To compare Pochettino to Ferguson already, would be too far-fetched, considering how much Sir Alex Ferguson did and the amount of silverware he collected at Manchester United. But based on what we've seen so far, it is safe to say that Pochettino is the closest to Ferguson we've had till now, and the Argentine looks to have a strong future ahead of him, with a first trophy not being too far away-- something that would be totally deserving, considering the work the man has done ever since he took charge over at White Hart Lane.