Manchester United v Southampton: Mauricio Pochettino not surprised by his flying start

Southampton manager believes his side can take on United and win at Old Trafford today

It is a rare day indeed when a Southampton manager takes his team to Old Trafford with the away side five places above Manchester United in the league, but then Mauricio Pochettino has already outstripped all expectations in his start to the season.

His club are fourth in the Premier League, they have won away at Anfield and conceded just two goals in seven league games – a defensive record that is matched only by Roma in all Europe’s major leagues. Today Southampton go back to a stadium at which they took the lead in January within eight minutes only to be beaten by two first-half goals from Wayne Rooney.

Pochettino, 41, was asked about the United man this week and whether he could even begin to be mentioned in the same terms as Lionel Messi, whom the Argentine knows well. As an Argentina international himself, who played against England during the 2002 World Cup finals, Pochettino’s reaction was instructive, in spite of the politeness he may have felt obliged to assume.

“I think that Wayne Rooney for England is very similar to what Lionel Messi is for Argentina,” he said. “It’s also clear that they have different characteristics and skills. They are both very important for their national sides and I’m a big fan of the two of them. I think it’s probably Lionel Messi and then Cristiano Ronaldo or Ronaldo and then Messi [at the top of world football]. Then Neymar, Rooney; Rooney, Neymar – he [Rooney] is in the top 10.”

The final assessment sounded as if he was recalculating his earlier praise for the Englishman to something he considered more realistic. Either way, it was interesting to hear an Argentine perspective on the player upon whom so much importance will be placed once again next summer. Could Rooney get in the Argentina team? “No,” Pochettino said, “he doesn’t have a passport!”

“I was speaking about it with my staff and we were saying he [Rooney] is the type of football player who is able to understand what is needed and what’s required of him at every single phase of the game. I honestly rate him as high as Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi. I have a great admiration for how he is as a football player. I think he’s an amazingly talented footballer.”

As for Southampton, they come to Old Trafford with their confidence high. Pochettino and chairman Nicola Cortese have added Dani Osvaldo, Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren to their squad over the summer in over £35m of investment. But Pochettino has also managed what he inherited shrewdly, from young players like Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse from the club’s academy to Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Even in spite of the money they have spent, Southampton still qualify as the Premier League’s biggest over-achievers, although Pochettino said that he was “not surprised” by their start. “The club starts being ambitious from the chairman and all the way down to the manager,” he said. “Every single person involved in this club is ambitious and wants the club to do well so I am not really surprised by how well the club is doing.”

Cortese described Pochettino as “basically just a department head like the others” in his speech at the Leaders in Football conference last week, a taste of the Southampton chairman’s uncompromising style. As for Pochettino, he is not the type to start a fight, especially given that he is still holding press conferences in Spanish with an interpreter at his elbow and, it seems, taking nothing for granted.

Pochettino said his relationship with Cortese was “amazing”. He bridled at the suggestion that his team’s attractive, attacking style of play was something that he has inherited from his predecessor Nigel Adkins.

“It’s always the manager that sets how the team wants to play,” Pochettino said. “Barcelona under Guardiola or under Vilanova or under Martino play in different ways. Southampton don’t play the same way as they did under Adkins as they do under Pochettino. The club has a certain philosophy and the club will try to find a manager to execute that philosophy in the way the club wants. So that’s why I am here.”

He has dropped the big signing from last season, Gaston Ramirez, and said that, with all respect, he did not see why Southampton could not win against United today. He is clearly his own man, and the sooner he masters English, the quicker English football will be able to get to know him properly.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Sport
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
News
Not quite what they were expecting
news

When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal at the Golden Globes in 2011
film
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up