If Mauricio Pochettino wants Manchester United rumours to blow over then he has to dismiss them

The furore around Pochettino’s future will be a constant distraction for the second half of Spurs’ season

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Wednesday 19 December 2018 08:17 GMT
Tottenham Hotspur: A look back at 2018

Mauricio Pochettino spoke about the rumours regarding his future today as if they were as natural, impersonal and implacable as the weather. There is no point complaining about sun or rain, because it would not change anything, so there is no point worrying about speculation. You should just let it wash over you instead, part of football’s volatile climate.

“There are a lot of rumours in football,” Pochettino shrugged at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “I accept everything. I accept rumours when they’re positive, or when they’re negative. I accept opinion when you win and when you lose. That is part of our business.”

And if rumours are weather then Tottenham are caught up in a storm of them now, with Manchester United looking for a new manager for next season onwards and Pochettino top of their list. This topic dominated Tuesday’s press conference, relegating the prospect of a League Cup quarter-final against Arsenal to secondary billing.

These questions will not go away and this will now be a dominant theme for the second half of this season, even with Premier League and Champions League campaigns ongoing and Spurs hoping to open their new stadium soon.

Of course speculation about Pochettino’s future is nothing new here. As he said today, “after nearly five years, a lot of rumours have happened about my position as manager of Tottenham”.

This is what happens when one of the most exciting young managers in the game works for a team outside the elite. The biggest clubs are going to be interested, and in the past four and a half years Pochettino and Spurs have seen off plenty of speculation from elsewhere.

Like in the spring of 2016 when Laurent Blanc was on the way out of Paris Saint Germain and Pochettino – who played there briefly – told French radio that coaching PSG was “part of his dreams.” Or, even more famously than that, when he was linked with the United job, and went out for a well-publicised lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson before signing a new contract at Spurs. Even today Pochettino was asked about that lunch – “Sir Alex was and is and always will be an inspiration for me” – so long has it stayed in our public memory.

Or in 2017 when Barcelona announced that Luis Enrique was leaving, Pochettino was linked and initially he did not dismiss the rumours, saying that he was born “with a ball in his arms”, meaning that he understood the politics of football and how good managers get linked with big jobs. But after meeting FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, Pochettino clarified that it would in fact be “impossible” for him to coach Barca because of his connections with Espanyol. Barcelona eventually ended up with Ernesto Valverde.

Or earlier this year when Zinedine Zidane stepped down at Real Madrid, Florentino Perez made Pochettino his first choice to replace him before realising that he could not get him out of Spurs, especially after he had signed a new five-year deal here.

Mauricio Pochettino was approached by Barcelona but said it would be impossible due to his Espanyol connections
Mauricio Pochettino was approached by Barcelona but said it would be impossible due to his Espanyol connections (Getty)

This particular connection could turn out just like any of those. Manchester United could find someone else, or their interim manager could work out better than anyone expected. Pochettino warned that in football nothing is guaranteed, that things that looked like a dead cert one day could be very different the next. The weather can change quicker than people might expect, so Pochettino is not putting too much trust in it.

“As always in football, no-one can guarantee anything,” Pochettino said. “We were talking a few weeks ago, and I said if a chairman or president is going to support you, then it’s because you are going to be sacked the day after. That job is so tough because nobody in football can guarantee you are going to be here tomorrow. In football I say ‘today is white, tomorrow is black’, you know? For me the most important thing is to be natural. What is going to happen in the summer? What is going to happen tomorrow? No one knows. The most important is to enjoy the journey. I’m so happy here.”

Pochettino met with Sir Alex Ferguson the day before signing a new contact with Spurs
Pochettino met with Sir Alex Ferguson the day before signing a new contact with Spurs (Getty)

In one sense Pochettino is right: there are plenty of things that could happen between now and the summer. Things can change quickly. But the fundamentals are unlikely to be very different: Pochettino will still be a talented manager with an impressive body of work behind him, and Manchester United will still be looking for someone with energy and ambition to come in and give them a relaunch, improving their young players who have fallen by the wayside under Mourinho.

Pochettino insisted again that he is focused on his job at Spurs, and he does have plenty on his plate, not least a chance to win a first trophy here, or to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. He said that he does not have the spare capacity to worry about United’s recruitment process, and he is surely right.

“That is not my business, and I will not waste time or energy, because my focus and energy is in Tottenham. It is on tomorrow and to prepare the best way the games. And, of course, to respect the club that employs you, and the club that you need to be very respectful and to give your best.”

But if Pochettino seriously wanted these rumours to blow over, and stop being a distraction for the second half of this season, then there are words he could say to move the story along. Speculation is not entirely implacable and natural. It can respond to human direction too.

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