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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning mentality beats Mauricio Pochettino’s ‘trophies only build egos’ mentality

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed Manchester United, in a caretaker capacity for the last eight matches, winning all eight matches. He will lead United into their ninth match under his reign at Old Trafford this evening, where the Red Devils will take on Burnley in the Premier League, with United looking to win nine in a row. Confidence is at a high at United at this moment in time and that is something which has led to suggestions that Solskjaer is the man to continue to take United forward.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has been reported to be the number one target to replace Jose Mourinho permanently in the summer when United will be seeking to find a permanent replacement for the role at the club. Executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward also wants to bring in a Director of Football also, which was suggested after the sacking of Mourinho at the start of December. Pochettino has done some good things at Spurs, but for me, he just does not fit in for United.

Spurs endured a tough week which saw them knocked out of the Carabao Cup by the hands of Chelsea at the semi-final stage, then being knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup after a 2-0 defeat by Crystal Palace on Sunday. That will be tough for Spurs supporters to swallow as they now seem out of luck for a trophy this season, being nine points adrift in the Premier League and facing Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League. The Carabao Cup or the FA Cup were both realistic for Spurs.

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The problems that I have with Pochettino is the fact that he has yet to win anything as a manager, winning next to nothing as a player. United is a club that has winning engrained into it. Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson are the two managers who have added this to the history of the club, with Ferguson being the most decorated manager English football has ever seen. United supporters would like to have someone who knows what it is like to win trophies.

Pochettino has done well at Spurs though, this is not a criticism of him and his management style. He has helped to develop youth at the club and seems to have built a team capable of playing with the big boys but in terms of success, Spurs are still waiting for that to hit home. They have challenged in the Premier League but fallen short of making it matter. It is his comments after being knocked out of the domestic cups that rule him out for me. Pochettino, reported by Sky Sports, said:

“Again we’re going to have the debate whether a trophy will take the club to the next level. I don’t agree with it. It only builds your ego. The most important thing for Tottenham right now is to always be in the top four. 

It’s true, this season has been tough. I told you it would be a massive challenge for us, but we believe it’ll be a tough season but no tougher than it’s been. Of course, disappointed because, after Thursday and today again, out of two competitions. You feel disappointed. You can’t feel anything different.

“But now we have to be positive. We are still in two competitions, in a good position in the Premier League and the Champions League is a massive motivation for the whole club. We have to be strong.”

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To suggest that trophies only build egos is a pretty pathetic comment to make. It is not something that most United supporters would expect a potential manager of the club to say. For me, it is up there with David Moyes stating that ‘United aspired to be like Manchester City’. It is a comment that suggests winning trophies is not something Pochettino wants Spurs to be doing, so therefore he would have the same mentality if he was chosen to manage United. It just seems so wrong to talk like this.

Football is all about playing games and seeking to win trophies. If managers only get satisfaction from developing players and turning mid-table teams into challengers, albeit that run out of steam when it matters, that is fine but it is just not something I would like to hear from a United manager. United have appointed David Moyes, a manager who had won nothing at a top-flight club, Louis van Gaal, who had won most things in Europe and Jose Mourinho, who had won it all. None of them worked out for the club.

If Pochettino was brought in, not only would it be a nightmare to deal with Spurs, he would cost United a small fortune in compensation to release him from his Spurs contract. That added to the mentality he has shown when his team were knocked out of both domestic cups in the space of three days, it suggests it could be mistake number four (in a row) for Woodward and United. Having now sacked three managers in five and a half years, it is important that Woodward and the club make the right decision.

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For me, right now, the right option would be to stick with Solskjaer. His compensation payment will be minimal, compared to Pochettino’s anyway. He has played for the club, won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup, all as a player. As a manager, at United, he has won the Premier League Reserve North and the Premier League Reserve, also adding the Manchester Senior Cup and the Lancashire Senior Cup to his honours.

At Molde, Solskjaer has won the Tippeligaen (now the Eliteserien) twice, in 2011 and 2012, the first manager to win Molde a top-flight league title, also winning the Norwegian Football Cup in 2013. For me, this is more successful than Pochettino both as a player and a manager. The Argentinian has won the Primera División in 1991, followed by the Clausura in 1992 for Newell’s Old Boys, also winning the Copa del Rey twice whilst playing for Espanyol. In terms of success, it does not compare with Solskjaer.

The one thing about Solskjaer is that he has the winning mentality that Pochettino does not seem to have. Yes, he can win matches and lead his side into competitions, contending to win the Premier League title a few years back but the fact remains that Spurs seem to have the mentality of becoming a top four club with little to show for that than the money they will have earned. United, in the same respect, seem to be in the same boat with money being the object of affection more than trophies but they have won trophies recently.

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The main factor that puts Solskjaer ahead of Pochettino for me is that the players love him, the coaches love him, and more importantly, the supporters love him. He has a history playing for United and has been a serial winner at the club over the years. He has had management experience at Molde, Cardiff City and now United, so in terms of experience, he is not in the same boat as Pochettino but to have the winning mentality is one of the main factors that he’s a leading contender to take the helm permanently.

Solskjaer’s winning mentality has been shown by his hunger to win things as both a player and a manager, achieving so much more than Pochettino. But the major part of that is shown by the way he speaks and acts. The excitement he has shown since being announced as United manager, to leading out the players and winning matches. His press conferences have also been more interesting than those of Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho. It is what he has said recently though that really does it for me. Solskjaer said:

“That is not the dream, though, to be top four. For Manchester United, you should always aim to win the league. We can’t do that this year, but we have to get back to the challenge. We’ve got the Champions League, we’ve got the FA Cup, we can’t just say we’ve got top four and that is it.

“We have to look at if we can win something this year. As I’ve said, I go into every game as Manchester United manager thinking we can win this game. We are sixth at the moment, so we are a way off the top teams. We are challenging to be top three at the moment. I don’t think we can realistically think about the top two positions.

“I’ve been really impressed with the players, their desire and the team spirit. That goes a long way. We need to use these months to be ready for the challenge next year, we came second last year, we wanted to be challenging for the top place but it didn’t happen. It’s about reorganising and just starting next season to be ready to challenge and get more points.”

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To hear any manager aspire to win trophies is going to get the supporters excited. Solskjaer has said things that have not been heard since Sir Alex Ferguson, showing that he has the class, motivation and aspirations just like the Scottish legend. Solskjaer obviously does not feel that winning trophies is an ego boost, just a part of the game he is involved in. If seeking a top four position is more than actually winning something, you have to wonder about the motivational aspects of the person saying it.

Obviously, United will need to achieve a top four place this season but whilst they are still in the UEFA Champions League, facing Paris Saint-Germain and in the Emirates FA Cup, facing Chelsea, to go into a game not wanting to win will get you what you deserve. United is all about winning trophies, which is why they are a club who has won everything they have ever played in, completing that haul under Mourinho by winning the UEFA Europa League.

Solskjaer, at this moment in time, remains my first-choice to become the permanent manager of United. There is a great feeling about the club under his management, the players and the supporters are all happy and the major mood change at the club post-Mourinho has been fantastic. Of course, when that first defeat comes, there will probably be criticism but Solskjaer is humble and he will take it on the chin. I don’t think he would ever respond with comments such as ‘winning trophies is only good for the ego’.

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