Mauricio Pochettino would need to make some changes if the Paris Saint-Germain manager ends up succeeding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United
Manchester United’s manager search has had a number of frontrunners over the past few weeks, but Mauricio Pochettino is beginning to look like the most likely candidate, with his potential appointment being discussed by the squad.
The Paris Saint-Germain manager, who is currently in England for his team’s Champions League game at Manchester City, has been heavily linked with an Old Trafford switch in the days since the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
If he does end up replacing Solskjaer, the former Tottenham Hotspur boss may have some work to do in order to keep everyone happy after a season where the unbalanced nature of the squad has been laid bare.
There is undoubtedly talent in United’s ranks, as evidenced by their second-place finish last season, but investment and a change in structure may be Pochettino’s first tasks.
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Pochettino has tended to prefer a 4-3-3 approach, or variations on that theme, for much of his time at Tottenham and PSG.
However, the personnel in his systems has often changed, to the point that one 4-3-3 approach doesn’t always look like every other example of the formation.
His Spurs sides have seen the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen take on a variety of responsibilities, for example, while his time in Paris has involved a struggle to find an approach which makes room for Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria at the same time.
Upon sacking Solskjaer, United suggested the club would appoint an interim manager until the end of the season before bringing in a longer-term successor to the Norwegian.
Pochettino’s early availability could be one of the few things to change their minds on that front, though, and even a mid-season move for the Argentine could prompt a change in how United set up.
In a dream scenario, how might United set up under Pochettino? And how many players might he need to add in order to impose his plans on a new club?
Despite United conceding 21 goals in 12 league game under Solskjaer – no team outside the bottom three has conceded more – there might not be too many changes required in the back four.
David De Gea has prevented United dropping even lower than eighth in the table, while a fit Raphael Varane has turned the defence into a more cohesive unit.
Luke Shaw showed enough last season to justify his continued inclusion, but a change could come at right-back with Kieran Trippier arriving to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The Atletico Madrid right-back was linked with United over the summer, and – while Newcastle are also reportedly keen – the defender knows Pochettino well from their time together in north London.
One of the biggest issues facing United this season has been the lack of protection in front of the back four, and if there’s any area of the field where big spending is required it’s here.
Pochettino has tended to prefer two deeper-lying players who can win the ball and supply those in front of them, whether that’s the likes of Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama at Spurs or Idrissa Gueye and Marco Verratti, among others, in Paris.
United have been linked with Declan Rice plenty of times in the past, and – while the England midfielder may well get better offers if the prospect of prising him away from West Ham is on the table – it wouldn’t be a best-case scenario without a potential move for a man who could plug a huge gap.
Another long-term target, Renato Sanches, is a man who Pochettino has seen plenty of during the Portugal international’s time in France with Lille. The presence of an international colleague as one of two supporting midfielders could help Bruno Fernandes rediscover his form, and ensure United don’t miss Paul Pogba too much if he ends up leaving in the summer.
The attacking three is one area of the field where United are unlikely to need reinforcements under a new manager, though whether they want it is a different question.
Pochettino’s preferred front three in Paris is relatively well-balanced, while his Spurs line-ups found ways to get the best out of Harry Kane from either two natural wide forwards or a creative player like Christian Eriksen supplying the England man from out wide.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford either side of Cristiano Ronaldo feels like an obvious way to achieve this, despite Pochettino’s comments about the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry, though there may be opportunities for Fernandes to be pushed forward in the Eriksen role.
And if Ronaldo isn’t beloved by the new manager? Well, it’s not like United don’t have other attacking options.
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