It’s hard to believe Erik ten Hag has been manager of Manchester United for less than a year.
Even more bizarrely, it was only 13 months ago that former Tottenham boss and incoming Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino was favourite to take over at Old Trafford.
With the Red Devils on the hunt for a new permanent manager following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and interim coach Ralf Rangnick set to change roles, the Argentine was originally top of the list.
It is believed Man United met directly with Mauricio Pochettino – then manager of Paris Saint-Germain – during their search.
But just days before Pochettino’s PSG were crowned champions of France, Ajax’s Ten Hag, who was storming his way to a third consecutive Eredivisie title, had been confirmed as Man United manager.
Just before the official confirmation of Ten Hag’s appointment in April, French journalist Julien Laurens told talkSPORT: “Maybe Pochettino was the favourite previously.
“I spoke to you a few months ago and I said Pochettino is the favourite.
“But Ten Hag had a big card to play, also because I think Rangnick wanted to work with Ten Hag a lot.”
In the end, Rangnick didn’t stay and left the club in May due to his new demands as Austria manager, which he became in the summer of 2022.
But the Man United hierarchy opting for Ten Hag’s ambitious vision instead of Pochettino’s has certainly paid off already, with the Red Devils already winning the Carabao Cup this season and have a chance to win the FA Cup and stop rivals Man City winning the quadruple.
Meanwhile, since parting ways with PSG last July, Pochettino has yet to have another managerial role – bar his role in Soccer Aid, of course.
Speaking about missing out on the role at Old Trafford in November, Pochettino admitted his stock being lower than Ten Hag’s this time last year will have been partly to blame, given PSG had recently been knocked out of the Champions League.
“Soccer is timing,” Pochettino told Radio Marca. “These are the moments for it to coincide and for that marriage to happen. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time.
“I don’t believe in trains passing only once. I think that sometimes you have to have the necessary patience and you have to know how to wait. The ‘timing’ is handled by football, it is true that my name has always been associated with big clubs.
“I have a lot of respect for professionals and it’s hard for me to sell myself, that’s work for you. That routine that is generated when you are at work is created as a result of the adrenaline of day to day. You miss it.
“Now what we do is get together, zoom, eat with the family and talk about the great debates that we generate. That is missed. But at the same time we do things that when you are immersed in the battle of work we cannot do. Being with family heals a lot.”
And come next season, Pochettino is expected to finally be back in management, but with Man United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea instead.
The Argentine has a huge task on his hands, being the Blues’ third permanent manager in just nine months.
He will need to transform a team who will finish in mid-table this season.
Thursday’s match between Man United and Chelsea is a huge occasion for Ten Hag’s side – live on talkSPORT – as they look to seal Champions League football after a season in the Europa League.
The Blues, meanwhile, are just hoping for better next season with Pochettino at the helm.
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