Mauricio Pochettino can replicate PSG tactics to give Manchester United what they need

When Mauricio Pochettino arrived in Paris in January 2021 to become the manager of the city’s biggest club, all was not well.

Thomas Tuchel had enjoyed great success in the French capital, winning two league titles, including a domestic quadruple in his second season, he also reached the Champions League final in 2020.

Yet his time at PSG was marred by a fractured relationship with the club’s difficult hierarch — something that came to a head and eventually led to his dismissal late last year.

At the time of Pochettino’s arrival, Paris Saint-Germain sat third in the table and on course to lose the Ligue 1 crown for the first time in four years. Pochettino’s task was to stop this from happening. But he couldn’t and his side fell short by a single point to eventual winners Lille.

Crucially though, from the date of his arrival until the end of the season, despite working in far from ideal circumstances, both teams accumulated an identical points return. Meaning his PSG side matched the champions stride for stride.

His team also progressed to the semi-final of the Champions League, eventually losing to Manchester City.

Though it was a first few months in charge that were epitomised by ‘nearly’ moments for a club that’s expected to always win, Pochettino was laying solid foundations for what was to come.

He implemented tactical adjustments almost instantly, freshening up the team with new ideas and structures.

One of the more notable was moving the team away from Tuchel’s favoured three-at-the-back formation and implementing variations of a 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3.

These are two formations that the United players know very well, although they never really managed to master either under the departed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It was different for the PSG players under Pochettino; it didn’t take them long to get up to speed. So much so that despite eventual disappointments, the club’s hierarchy backed Pochettino in the summer, triggering a one-year contract extension — to prevent Tottenham Hotspur from returning for their former manager.

Pochettino’s squad was bolstered in the summer with a host of star names like Lionel Messi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma.

And although there’s a case to be made that these were vanity signings from the club rather than moves Pochettino would have requested, in some ways causing him more headaches than solutions.

It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that these big names have proven to be hit and miss this season.

Despite interference from above, Pochettino’s talents as a coach have shone through and this season, he’s turned PSG into an unstoppable juggernaut. His side sit top of the table, 11 points clear of second-place Nice with well over half the season still to go. They’ve both scored more goals than any other side, and conceded fewer times than any other team too.

Although the campaign is still in its infancy, the league title looks at very least to be guaranteed, barring an unlikely capitulation, while domestic cups and even the Champions League will also be in the Argentine’s sights.

Yet there’s a chance none of these ambitions will be fulfilled.

United officials may have intentions of waiting until the summer to make any permanent managerial appointment, however Pochettino could well be open to coming now.

It’s nearly happened for him at United in the past. Pochettino was prepared to succeed Jose Mourinho at the club before Solskjaer’s caretaker spell, while further talks were held last year when United hit a sticky run of form under the Norwegian. Although it wasn’t the right time then, it should be now.

PSG’s wealth means that they’ll always be a regular within Europe’s group of elite, and therefore a suitable setting for a manager as talented as Pochettino. However, the 49-year-old will never be given the reins as he’d truly like due to the meddling from above, and this could be a driving force behind a premature switch to United.

The opportunity of returning to the Premier League, where Pochettino rose to managerial stardom, to manage one of the division’s crown jewels will be hard to ignore.

He’s shown during his time in Paris that he can be a success in undertaking a task that had many parallels to the one facing the next United boss now.

Under the ever-present pressure to win and whilst managing a host of big personalities, he has maximised the output from a talented group of players and has them on course to deliver success. He’s the best candidate to do the same at United too.

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