Mauricio Pochettino pays tribute to Manchester United's former England internationals Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand

Southampton take on United this evening

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino has hailed the professionalism of evergreen Manchester United duo Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand as he prepares to face the former England men again, more than a decade after tackling them on the pitch with Argentina at the 2002 World Cup.

Pochettino was part of the Pumas side beaten 1-0 by England in Japan, where his foul on Michael Owen conceded the penalty from which David Beckham secured a famous victory.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, with 34-year-old Ferdinand no longer part of the international side under Roy Hodgson and Scholes, 38, already having come out of retirement once.

However, speaking ahead of tonight's Barclays Premier League clash at Old Trafford, Pochettino feels both men deserve the utmost respect for continuing to play at the highest level with United.

"I am not surprised by their professionalism and how they have maintained themselves over the years," said the 40-year-old, who will be looking to secure his first win since replacing Nigel Adkins.

"I know they are amazing athletes, they take care of their bodies and their fitness.

"As a manager, I am very happy to see them still playing, it makes me proud to see players can last that long, which is all down to their professionalism."

Former Espanyol coach Pochettino used the break in domestic action to take his players away on a short training camp in Spain, which he believes helped the players and new staff bond.

While Pochettino is determined to stamp his own mark on the team, the Argentinian remains conscious of what the squad had achieved before his arrival.

"We have our own work ethic and our own philosophy as to where we want to take the club," he said.

"We have goals and ambition, we want to work for the team to achieve those goals. However, that does not mean we want to be anything contrary to what was being done before, it is not about that.

"It is more about our philosophy, how we want to take the team forward and how we want to achieve those goals."

With defender Jose Fonte still missing through injury, new signing Vegard Forren could be set for his debut at Old Trafford after joining from Norwegian side Molde.

Pochettino hopes the 24-year-old, who has not played a competitive match since December, will settle quickly into the tempo of the Premier League.

"We are very pleased Forren has decided to come here. He is a player who is going to cover certain necessities of the squad," Pochettino said.

"The most important aspect now is he adapts well to the team, is up to speed and will be able to compete with us."

Southampton are currently four points clear of the relegation zone and travel to struggling Wigan on Saturday before hosting champions Manchester City on February 9.

Pochettino remains confident his current group of players have what it takes to avoid being dragged into a dogfight for survival.

"I am happy with the quality of the squad and am confident we can do well in the league," he said.

PA

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