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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
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

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape