The former defender’s support for Pochettino to take over at Old Trafford has softened amid the current incumbent’s excellent start as caretaker
Gary Neville believes Mauricio Pochettino appears the natural choice to take over as Manchester United manager, but caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to sway his opinion.
United have won eight games and drawn one in all competitions since Solskjaer was placed in charge until the end of the season after Jose Mourinho’s sacking in December.
Tottenham boss Pochettino is reportedly the club’s top candidate to take the Old Trafford hot seat on a permanent basis and Neville has previously backed him as the right man for the job.
After seeing Solskjaer’s side get the better of Spurs in the Premier League last month, however, the former United defender sees signs that suggest the Norwegian would be a good fit in the long term.
“The win over Spurs changed my thinking a little bit,” he told The Telegraph. “[Solskjaer] got it right and in the first half won the tactical battle.
“Yes, in the second half David De Gea made a lot of saves, and Tottenham should probably have equalised, but in the first half he went to a diamond with split strikers. It was a risk and I’ve not seen United do that in any game in the last two to three years. So he introduced a new system, a new shape and a new way of playing in his biggest match.
“He did what Manchester United managers should do – he took risks to win and he went for it. I thought it was a big moment that, for Ole.”
He added: “I do have conflicting views. Personally, I would want [Solskjaer] to have a shot at the job he’s got now. But on the other hand, I want the club to make an unemotional decision.
“Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the best person for the job? If the answer is ‘yes’ at the end of the season because he’s got them into the top four and they’ve won the FA Cup, you’d say: ‘How can you not give him the job?’
“I’m not going to change from this. I said United should go for the best off the pitch football brain in the world and the best head coach in the world they can get.
“And if that’s Ole at the end of the season … I go back to that Pochettino always was the one who stood out for me as the one, in terms of the football, values and bringing through young players, like what he’s done at Tottenham and Southampton. Over a period of time it feels to me like he would be the natural choice.
“However, you look at what Del Bosque did at Real Madrid when he picked up the team, or like what Di Matteo did in that six months at Chelsea. It feels like what Ole’s doing, like he’s having that sort of time now.”
Solskjaer’s coaching career got off to a perfect start at Molde when he won two Norwegian league titles, but a brief spell in charge of Cardiff ended in disappointment when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2014.
But Neville believes that failure with the Welsh outfit has helped him emerge as a better manager at Old Trafford.
“He’s had his failure at Cardiff, which is a good thing. It brings you right back down to earth and gives you a slap. It lets you know where you’re at,” Neville added.
“So Ole failing at Cardiff makes him a stronger manager at Manchester United and he’s now realising he’s got a chance. He’s been at Cardiff, Molde and now United, so he’s been on a journey as a young coach that he should go through and he’s immersed himself in it every day.”
The ex-England star does not envy the United hierarchy as they consider their options and believes the decision will only increasing in difficulty.
“Ed Woodward, the board and the Glazers have got a really difficult decision, the more Ole wins,” Neville said. “It gets harder for them. Is he the best man for the job? He might just be.
“United have appointed externally the last three times and it’s failed, so considering an internal appointment, which is what Ole is, could it be the way forward?
“I’d have said no six weeks ago, but seeing the job Ole’s now done …. we have to judge it at the end of the season. But I said to someone last week, whatever Manchester United do, they cannot allow a manager to walk through those doors ever again and bring their own philosophy that sits outside the principles of what United are, which is entertaining, attacking football, playing with risk with young players that come through the academy.”
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