Why join Man Utd? Pochettino can reach the top with silky Spurs

Much of the week’s Premier League chat has been focussed on Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. No sooner had the unshaven Portuguese been driven out of Carrington had speculation begun over who would replace him and the weekend’s festive football programme was a bit overlooked in the midst of it all.

It didn’t take long for much of the media to alight on the name of Mauricio Pochettino, notwithstanding the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hired to keep the hotseat warm until the end of the season. The Norwegian did well in his opening game against Cardiff City but he won’t be there long. Besides, what United do is pretty inconsequential between now and May. The teams who will matter are Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

While Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have spent heavily to get their teams into contention, what cannot be ignored is the outstanding work done by Pochettino to get his team so close to the Reds and City at this stage of the season.

Through it all, it has been reasoned that the Tottenham manager is the steadying hand that United need to guide them through what is crucial stage of development. That may well be true considering the nurturing that he has conducted throughout his four years at Spurs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Pochettino should be tempted by the prospect.

While United undoubtedly have the money and the lustre, right now they seem very much like a club of the past. It is Spurs, not United, that are going places.

The extent of their backstage crises have been laid bare by the media this week, delivering the contradiction that United are at once one of the world’s most attractive clubs and also one that is not being run properly. That contrasts profoundly to Spurs, where Pochettino is no longer seen to be working miracles. He is taking them places and expectations of success with this team are logical.

Tottenham have become Champions League mainstays under his tenure, shaking up what had been a cosy club of four. Spurs are closer to Liverpool and Manchester City than any other contending club and, despite the North London derby defeat to Arsenal recently, remain the better team in that district too.  

His work at Spurs has been so noteworthy because he is competing against clubs with much higher budgets and – in some cases – more high-profile players. But the manner in which he has overseen things has seen them move from promising young upstarts to one of the league’s best and most consistent teams.

Tottenham

That was all in evidence on Sunday at Goodison Park, as they ran out 6-2 winners against Everton. Despite the fact that the Toffees got a couple of goals against them, there was always a sense that Spurs would remain in control. They delivered – arguably – their most complete attacking performance under Pochettino in the Premier League. Every time they came forward they looked like scoring. Goodison was half empty by the time Spurs got their sixth.

For the first time in the same Premier League match, Son Heung-min, Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen were on the scoresheet. They cut Everton open at will, not only through the strength of that all-conquering foursome, but through the guile of Harry Winks and the much-improved Moussa Sissoko.

This is very much the team that Pochettino built and one which deserves more promotion in certain quarters. This game will do plenty for their goal difference and is a major signpost too of their intentions for the title. If City are in contention then why not Spurs? They are only two points behind.

Even the Spurs fans bought into the week’s big chat. The way they sang – consistently – for the last five or 10 minutes of the game was a reminder to all of where they believe their manager belongs. “Mauricio Pochettino, he’s Tottenham, you know,” gets an airing most games but not usually with so many verses. It was like the travelling Spurs army were reminding everyone – United, the Sky cameras, Pochettino himself – of where his future should lie.

Harry Kane Dele Alli Tottenham 2018-19

Pochettino has had his run-ins with Spurs – due to transfer windows failing to launch most recently – but there is nothing like the dysfunction that there is at Old Trafford.

Up north he would be expected to hit the ground running and get the club back to where they were under Sir Alex Ferguson. The price for an inability to do so – as David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho found out – is unemployment.

While there are grand statements being made around United about the need for patience and the importance of flushing things out and starting again, Pochettino is already at a club that gives him all the guarantees he needs.

United would always be an attractive proposition for any manager but the job comes these days with many more cons than pros.

Would he get the time? That question is pertinent at United but not applicable at Spurs. Pochettino is getting all the time he needs because of the quality of his work. He has a hard-working, talented team capable of delivering his football on a consistent basis. Many of them have put their roots down at Spurs for the long-term and are ready – along with the manager – for the new stadium move that 2019 will bring.

It’s clear that Pochettino is a manager ready for the very top but he has more of a chance of getting there with Spurs than he does with Manchester United. 

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Everton 2 Tottenham 6: Kane, Son inspire demolition in Christmas cracker

Tottenham produced a devastating display of attacking football as Son Heung-min and Harry Kane inspired the 6-2 hammering of Everton in a Premier League Christmas cracker, moving Spurs to within two points of Manchester City.

The past week had been dominated by speculation linking Mauricio Pochettino with the Manchester United manager’s job, and Spurs’ attack-minded showing at Goodison Park showed exactly why the Argentinian is a front-runner.

A thrilling first half started positively for Everton and they went ahead through former Arsenal man Theo Walcott, but they gifted Son an equaliser, and Dele Alli and Kane made things worse before the break.

Fine goals from Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson came early in the second half as the entertainment value continued to grow, but Son and Kane got their second goals in the final 30 minutes to emphatically finish the Toffees off.

Walcott put Everton ahead 21 minutes in, rounding off a well-worked move by slamming home Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s cut-back.

But they soon shot themselves in the foot, as Kurt Zouma and Jordan Pickford collided when trying to deal with Kane’s long pass and Son converted into an empty net.

Alli netted in the 35th minute to move Spurs in front, drilling a fierce strike in from just inside the area after Pickford parried a Son strike.

And Kane opened a two-goal lead just before the break, knocking into an open goal when Kieran Trippier’s free-kick came back off the post.

Spurs continued to look rampant at the start of the second period – Eriksen finding the bottom-right corner with a gorgeous 20-yard volley.

But Everton swiftly hit back through Sigurdsson, whose solo run ended with a smart finish from the edge of the box.

The hosts’ chances were effectively ended in the 61st minute, however – Son sweeping through Pickford’s legs when released by Erik Lamela.

Kane rounded things off late on, turning in Son’s cross to complete the crushing of Everton and give the visitors their first points of the season from a losing position.


What does it mean? Spurs hot on City’s heels

Spurs have hardly been mentioned at all with respect to the title race this term, but not only does Sunday’s result see them close to within just two points of City, it highlighted just how ruthless they can be in attack. If Kane – who has now scored in a brace in each of his last four appearances against Everton – and Son carry on like this, Liverpool might just have another team to keep an eye on.

Son shines bright

Everyone in Spurs’ attack and midfield impressed at Goodison, but Son was particularly effective, with his movement and ability on the ball constantly troubling Everton’s defence. On top of that, he got two goals and an assist in an all-round excellent showing.

A day to forget for Pickford

England’s goalkeeper will want to move on quickly from this showing, as he played a pivotal role in Spurs’ equaliser, parrying the ball straight to Alli for their second and was bailed out by the offside flag when he clattered into his international team-mate with an ugly challenge just before half-time.

What’s next?

Everton’s Boxing Day outing sees them travel to struggling Burnley, while Spurs host a Bournemouth side boosted by Saturday’s 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

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Ronaldo sought out Juventus switch, says the club’s sporting director

Cristiano Ronaldo sought out a move to Juventus while the Serie A club was in talks with fellow Jorge Mendes client, Joao Cancelo, according to The Old Lady’s sporting director Fabio Paratici.

Ronaldo moved to Juve in the close season for a fee of €112 million (£100.7m/$127.5m), ending a nine-year stint at Real Madrid, and his agent Mendes said on Saturday that the move was the forward’s idea.

And Paratici has now backed up that version of events, despite previous claims that Ronaldo had been forced out of Madrid after failing to agree a new contract at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

“When we met with Mendes to discuss Cancelo, that is where the whole thing began,” Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

“Mendes said to me: ‘You won’t believe this, but Cristiano wants to come to Juve.’

“I replied that I believed it, but it seemed difficult to make everything come together and work.”

Ronaldo has hit his stride in Turin, and has scored 12 times in all competitions to help Juve move clear at the top of Serie A and progress in the Champions League.

But Paratici added that bringing in the Portugal star never seemed a likely option.

“The greatest players help kids to dream. My son wanted Cristiano Ronaldo’s jersey, so when I went to see a Portugal game, I bought it and he wore it all the time.

“Every year he’d ask me: ‘Daddy, why don’t we buy Cristiano Ronaldo?’ Because it’s impossible.

“Then when it happened, he said: ‘Daddy, you told me it was impossible!’ I had no answer.”

Juve secured a 1-0 victory over Roma on Saturday, ensuring Massimiliano Allegri’s side have an eight-point lead over second-placed Napoli and have now won 16 of their 17 league fixtures this term, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Genoa.

They face Atalanta next on Boxing Day as they look to continue their dominance in Serie A and prepare for a tie with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16.

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Shaw insists Mourinho’s sacking hasn’t impacted Man Utd’s efforts

Luke Shaw insists Manchester United’s players try to play quick, attacking football under every manager they play for after the Red Devils beat Cardiff City 5-1 in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s debut match in charge.

The game was United’s first outing after Jose Mourinho was sacked on Tuesday, ending a turbulent spell at Old Trafford which saw the United boss consistently criticising players and falling out with the club’s record signing Paul Pogba.

Despite a second placed finish being secured last season, United have struggled this term and were left in sixth place, 11 points off the top four, when Mourinho suffered his final defeat in charge against Liverpool at Anfield.

Speaking to United’s official website after the victory at Cardiff, Shaw said: “As a Man United team, we always try to play quickly, no matter what manager it is or who it’s with.

“We’re Man United and that’s what we’re known for. And today I think it clicked really well and you saw a lot of that today – and a really special goal I feel in the third goal. Great passing, movement, and a great finish to go off with it.

“We kept our composure even when it went 2-1 and we kept doing what we needed to do and we did that amazingly today and well done to all the team. There’s things to look forward to now and we need to keep going and do what we did today.”

Many fans had complained at the slow and defensive style of play under Mourinho, with some critics claiming the players had stopped running for the Portuguese, but they showed renewed energy on Saturday, scoring five goals including the stunning effort from Anthony Martial in the 41st minute.

But Shaw, who started the game at left-back, was adamant the squad had always been aiming to play with a strong intensity and was pleased to see his team return to winning ways after the dramatic events of the past few days.

“A very good result after, obviously, a tough week for everyone at the club,” he added. “But this weekend was looking for a reaction and I feel the lads played really well today, and it’s nice to get the three points that we really needed.”

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Atlanta United appoint former Inter & Ajax boss Frank de Boer as new head coach

Former Ajax, Inter and Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer has been appointed as the new head coach of Atlanta United, the MLS Cup champions have confirmed.

The Dutchman has signed a ‘multi-year contract’ with the team and will succeed Gerardo Martino.

De Boer won four successive Eredivisie titles during his time in charge of Ajax, but struggled to replicate his success during a disastrous three-month spell at Inter in 2016.

He took charge of Palace for the 2017-18 campaign, but was sacked when the Eagles lost their first four Premier League games.

However, he has now been handed a chance to revive his career in the United States, and Atlanta president Darren Eales is delighted to have secured De Boer’s signature.

“The club’s sportive ambitions, as set out in a long-term strategy to be the best in class, clearly fits my personal ambitions,” De Boer told the club’s official website.

“I would like to build on the current success to develop a secure, solid foundation for the club at the top of MLS and beyond.

“Aside from the club’s ambitions, the values, culture and the philosophy for the entire organization are a vital part in realizing that point of success.

“This is exactly what I believe in as a person and as a coach. All of this combined, makes that I am really excited to be a part of it.”

De Boer began his coaching career in 2008 with the Netherlands, where he was an assistant, before moving on to Ajax in December 2010. 

Six years at the Amsterdam side yielded four Eredivisie titles, which caught the attention of Inter. At San Siro, though, he lasted only 14 matches before being sacked in November 2016, while his spell at Crystal Palace was aborted after only four Premier League matches – a record in the division for a full-time manager.

De Boer has been out of the game since that episode in London, which concluded on September 11, 2017.

Atlanta, meanwhile, are coming off a highly successful campaign, in which they claimed MLS Cup glory thanks to a 2-0 win over Portland Timbers.

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