Earlier this week, BBC sports presenter Dan Walker stirred the pot with a claim that Manchester United were eyeing up Mauricio Pochettino for the Old Trafford manager’s job.
It was vague phrasing — “three knowledgeable people have suggested” — but nonetheless plenty of people in the Spurs Twittersphere took the bait.
Personally, I don’t think Spurs fans should be at all perturbed. Even if United offered Pochettino the job, I’m pretty certain he would turn it down.
Manchester United fans may argue, “money always talks” and “you can’t turn down United because they are the biggest club in England”, but I don’t think that will be enough. Not this time.
If Pochettino is seeking a pay increase, Spurs are still a wealthy club and can pay Pochettino what he wants. At this point, he has the whip hand in any financial negotiations. Yes, money matters to everyone, but it matters to varying degrees to different individuals — Pochettino, for example, doesn’t even have an agent.
United are a bigger club in terms of revenues, brand and stadium size. But Spurs are building what will be the most spectacular and revenue-tastic stadium in the league. A top four finish, if we stay the course, should give the commercial revenue and global fan base a healthy boost. As it stands, United will not qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Pochettino had to spend an extremely difficult and risky 12 months “flushing the toilet”, in Gary Neville’s phrase, at Spurs. But now, he has the team just as he wants it — young, hungry, together. This Spurs team has just as good a chance of winning titles in the next five years as United.
Meanwhile, Pochettino is involved at all levels — watching the youth teams (his son is in one of them), and working closely with academy guru John McDermott (who has just rejected United). The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are seeing their careers taking off at Spurs — they don’t need to move to United to become stars, they already are. Same with Pochettino.
Meanwhile, United have carpetbagging owners, a decaying youth structure, a CEO with no football background, and a global fan base with no patience for the poor results and performances that a thorough rebuilding job would entail.
Pochettino isn’t stupid. He won’t stay out of loyalty, he’ll stay out of ambition.
The argument gets made that Pochettino walked out on Southampton for Spurs, and will do the same again. But that ignores key differences: the man who appointed him at Southampton, Nicola Cortese, had already left the club, while the team was about to be stripped of its best talent. Because he was ambitious, staying at Southampton in all probability meant, at best, staying the same. That’s not the situation at Spurs.
Spurs will only shake the impression of being a selling club when we stop selling our best players. There is no shortcut to this, just years and years of saying “no” to the likes of United until we are in a position to turn the tables and make bids for their stars.
We are going to get offers for the likes of Kane and Alli — big offers — but right now, Spurs have never had less incentive to sell. We don’t need income from player sales to make the stadium project work. What we need is a good team that is going to mean sold-out crowds and packed corporate boxes once it is complete.
If I was a United fan, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that Jose Mourinho is available. He will, through fair means or foul, ensure the United team is motivated and competitive for the next 2.5 seasons, buying time for the behind the scenes rebuilding that is so evidently needed at Old Trafford in the wake of the Fergie era.
Man Utd would be crazy not to appoint Mourinho, but one can only wonder at the thought process going on at senior levels of that club. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they tried to hire Pochettino, but right now, I’d be shocked if he said “yes”.
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