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How would Manchester United play under Mauricio Pochettino?

Mauricio Pochettino
(Image credit: Getty)

Manchester United have tried to hire Mauricio Pochettino in the past - and it looks like they're going to try again. But trying to guess how the Argentinian would set up at Old Trafford with the current squad is perhaps trickier than one would think.

Pochettino has used an array of formations throughout his career and though he has a preference for the high-tempo, pressing game that he himself played under Marcelo Bielsa, he's also been known to switch up tactics when it suits him. He has staples of his play - but few of them seem currently set up at United.

RICHARD JOLLY Mauricio Pochettino hasn't been a good fit for PSG – would Manchester United be any better?

So what would Pochettino change? And what would he need to succeed?

What is Mauricio Pochettino's style?

Pochettino once told a story about working for Bielsa, in which El Loco asked him how he thought he'd performed before he arrived. The defender modestly said a seven out of ten - to which Bielsa told him he had been "s***" and that if he played that badly for him, he would sell him.

Poch says he cried on the way home - and yet he still regards this man as the greatest coach of his career. That should tell you everything about his philosophy. 

The PSG manager demands hard running, high focus and work ethic above everything else, which perhaps goes some way to explaining why managing superstars isn't quite turning out how he'd wished. He made his name at Tottenham from drilling his team to be fitter than anyone else - and sure enough, come Christmas fixture congestion, Spurs tended to outrun everyone else and pick up valuable points.

Typically then, Tottenham's best sides set up with Mousa Dembele in midfield alongside Victor Wanyama, putting in the hard graft. Whatever formation Pochettino set up with, a couple of strong, physical midfielders were key - as were marauding full-backs down the flanks. Luke Shaw credits Pochettino as a key influence in his career, while United's summer target Kieran Trippier thrived under Pochettino.

What formation would Mauricio Pochettino play at Manchester United?

Formation has remained fluid during Pochettino's career. While his current PSG side line up with a 4-2-3-1, the Argentinian has turned his hand to three-at-the-back formations at Spurs, while he's paired Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min or used them both separately. 

Eric Dier was perhaps the key figure during his Tottenham reign - whatever formation he played.

Dier was a midfielder for the most part under Pochettino but his versatility became key for his manager. The England international would drop into the backline to form a three-man defence or push up to become a part of the midfield; he was the catalyst to altering system in-game and even functioned as a right-back on occasion, too. Only Christen Eriksen, Kane, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen played more.

United aren't blessed with an equivalent. Fred was known to drop deeper to collect the ball during his Shakhtar Donetsk days, making him the prime candidate, while Scott McTominay has been known to play in defence for Scotland. 

How would Mauricio Pochettino set up at Manchester United?

Manchester United

(Image credit: Future)

Pochettino has set up in all kinds of shapes and styles but judging by what worked best for him in his career, a narrow 4-3-3 with a dropping DM seems like a choice he would make, were he Manchester United manager.

United currently have the issue of how to integrate Bruno Fernandes in a 4-3-3 - but  Eriksen and Son often functioned as a narrow wingers in the shape for Poch. Width was provided by both full-backs, with dynamism and drive coming from midfield. With United lacking midfielders in the same box-to-box style as Dembele or Idrissa Gueye (McTominay aside), this gives a good opportunity to Donny van de Beek to establish himself as an attacking no.8.

There are a number of weaknesses, however. Wan-Bissaka is not the kind of right-back that Pochettino is used to and may have to fight for his place; the obvious lack of a physical defensive midfielder is also glaring. The Argentinian may wish to bring in another hard-working midfielder - someone in the mould of Tomas Soucek - while his philosophy only allows for a few of United's many attacking talents.

Still, credit must go to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer: this is a much better position that United find themselves in than when the Norwegian took over. United have their issues - and Pochettino would have to be given time to address them - but there's plenty of talent to work with.

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