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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power