The Great Managerial Debate: Solskjaer vs Pochettino

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Come summer, the higher ups at Old Trafford will be tasked with the all important decision of deciding on their permanent gaffer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has certainly done an incredible job so far, making him a top contender for the post. However, another name that has been likewise linked with the club is Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Let us have a look at the styles of the two young gaffers and see who will be a better fit for the Manchester United job:

 

1. Tactics 

Both of them show an affinity for the 4-2-3-1 formation. However, Solskjaer has been slow in his implementation of the style at Old Trafford, relying on the more predictable 4-3-3. Pochettino, on the other hand, has been wholly reliant on this formation as his baseline. 

The key difference in them is that the Norwegian prefers a wider setup to deploy his attacking trident, while the one that Spurs lines up in tends to be narrower upfront, more reliant on their full-backs. The latter is unlikely to work at United due to the natural tendencies of Martial, Mata, and Sanchez.

Further, while Solskjaer gives great freedom to his players to change positions, Pochettino insists on positional discipline. This will be a massive hit to the role of Pogba who, when free to roam, has been United’s best player and maintains great form. 

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2. Managerial Style 

Solskjaer imbibes in him the traditional United DNA of pure attacking football. However, as a consequence, the club may be left open defensively, a feat that could be punished against tactically capable big sides.

In contrast, Pochettino has show a penchant to be balanced and not rely solely on any particular ethos. This approach is aided by his careful tailoring of role-specific players. 

 

3. Experience At The Top Level 

As mentioned, Solskjaer’s adaptive tendency in the Premier League remains largely untested, with his stint with Cardiff far too long ago and far too unsuccessful to stick to the new styles of the competition.

In contrast, over the past years, Pochettino has near perfected his ability to excel against sides across the league, and he also has more experience in Europe. Consistency in finishing at the top three will certainly place him at an advantage. 

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4. Trophies 

In terms of silverware, Solskjaer actually has more to his name than the Spurs boss. In just two seasons with Molde, the Norwegian gifted them with two league titles, a feat that wasn’t achieve in over a century of their existence as a club. 

While the Premier League will be a whole different challenge, this winning mentality, also a remnant of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, will work better with United.

 

5. Fit For The Current Squad

Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

This is another region where Solskjaer has an undeniable advantage over the Argentinian. Being familiar with the system as both player and then as the coach of their youth team, the Norwegian has an extra element of rapport with the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford. 

The cases of Guardiola and Zidane during their tenures at Barcelona and Real Madrid have proven successful precedents that handing over reins to former players is bound to succeed. 

Another case in point of the same is that Mike Phelan, who is assistant manager at the moment, tasted a similar player-to-coach success under SAF. 

 

6. Transfers 

Another shared point of similarity. Both are unlikely to demand the kind of big money transfers that Mourinho and Guardiola have made common affairs in England. However, Pochettino being an established name may tempt the club to go for big talents who will wish to play under him. 

Under Solskjaer, more preference may be given to developing youth players. 

 

All in all, regardless of who gets chosen for the permanent gig come summer, the previous tenures have set a strong precedent at United. In the cases of Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho, the problems were much deeper than the men at the touchline.

Success can only be brought about by integrating a change made by the Glazers, by Ed Woodward deciding whether a director of football is necessary or not, and by how they invest in the next few transfer windows.