Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking has cast a shadow over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future at Manchester United.
United were tipped to raid Tottenham Hotspur for Pochettino earlier this year before hiring Solskjaer. But the Argentine still had four years remaining on his contract, and the United hierarchy felt it would be almost impossible to get him out of Spurs at that time.
With Pochettino now becoming available, there is a growing clamor for him to take over at Manchester United. And it is not difficult to see why he’s still an attractive option for them.
The Argentine trainer has firmly established Spurs in the top six, and last season guided them to their first-ever Champions League final. And he did that while working with a substantially leaner budget than the rest of the Big Six.
United legend Gary Neville felt Pochettino was a good fit for United after Jose Mourinho’s departure last season.
“They (United) need someone who meets the three key principles of that football club: the promotion of youth, entertaining football and to win football matches. I see Pochettino - and he’s done an incredible job.
“People will say, ‘He hasn’t won a trophy yet’ but Manchester United have tried managers who have won European Cups, managers who have won multiple leagues, managers who have had that solid grounding in the Premier League,” said Neville.
While the United hierarchy might still be backing Solskjaer publicly despite an unconvincing start to the season, there is a growing feeling that the Norwegian might be walking on thin ice.
To sack the man entrusted with sparking United's resurgence after just half a season in-charge would be cruel and unjust. Yet, United will know that this could be their only chance to get Pochettino.
So what should the United hierarchy do with Solskjaer? Amid all the nagging doubts, Solskjaer deserves credit for the players he has bought and sold at Old Trafford.
United's three major signings in the summer transfer window - Harry Maguire, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka - were shrewd bits of business that improved the squad. And all three of them are now thriving at the club.
In particular, signing a player from the Championship was seen as a risk, but so far Daniel James has been a revelation. He is enjoying a breakthrough season in the Premier League,
For the first time since Ferguson's 2013 retirement, Solskjaer’s United has indicated a radical shift in its transfer approach. Instead of signing big names with commercial appeal, the focus has shifted to building a young and hungry squad, with a strong British core.
Solskjaer’s transfer policy has been smarter than that of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho.
The Norwegian has proven to be just as adept at getting rid of the unwanted influence of Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Darmian and Chris Smalling - all of whom were deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Beyond the transfers, Solskjaer is facilitating the promotion of promising academy graduates to the first team. The promotion of Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, James Garner and Axel Tuanzebe points to a philosophical reboot under Solskjaer.
All of this is exactly what a good director of football does.
Solskjaer understands United’s history, their expectations and the players needed to reach the summit of European football. This raises the question of whether United already have a perfect candidate for the director of football role.
Solskjaer’s future could still be at United, but in a different role. But is he ready to swallow his pride and move upstairs?Published 22 Nov 2019, 00:37 IST