Here, Press Association Sport looks at how the Argentinian has fared against the Red Devils during his time as a manager in England.
Pochettino has a mixed record against United in 13 games as Southampton and Tottenham boss, winning four, losing six and drawing three. He did not beat United at all while at Southampton, although there was only one defeat in three games with Saints – that coming in just his second game in charge in January 2013. Wayne Rooney scored twice as Sir Alex Ferguson’s then Premier League leaders came from behind to win 2-1.
At Spurs, Pochettino has faced United 10 times, collecting a win earlier this season and in each of the previous three campaigns. That is offset by five defeats while there has also been one draw.
NEVER ACHIEVED A DOUBLE
Sunday’s game will give Pochettino a chance to achieve a first double over United, having triumphed 3-0 at Old Trafford in August. That success was an early statement of Tottenham’s power this season while it also increased the pressure on United boss Jose Mourinho, whose eventual sacking in December led to speculation linking Pochettino with the job.
United will go into the game with momentum after winning five in succession under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but they remain 10 points behind third-placed Spurs.
Prior to this season’s win at Old Trafford, all of Pochettino’s previous successes against United had come at home, either White Hart Lane or Wembley. In fact, putting aside last season’s FA Cup semi-final at a neutral Wembley, United have never won away against a Pochettino Spurs side.
That bodes well for them this weekend, although Pochettino has suffered at least one defeat to United in all but one of his five full seasons in England. The exception was 2013-14, when Southampton and United drew 1-1 twice.
The August success at Old Trafford probably ranks as Pochettino’s best against United, a result that was secured with three goals in the second half. Harry Kane got the first of them before Lucas Moura grabbed two.
Pochettino enjoyed another impressive 3-0 victory over United in April 2016 as Spurs tried to chase Leicester down in the title race. Their goals came from Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela in a six-minute blitz midway through the second half.
The boot was on the other foot in March 2015 as Spurs were roundly beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford. Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Rooney all scored in the opening 34 minutes as Pochettino’s side were outclassed and United enjoyed one of their best wins under Louis Van Gaal.
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How often is it that losing your fourth-most important player can constitute a crisis?
That’s the question facing Tottenham at the moment, as they look to stay within touching distance of the Premier League‘s top two – the gap is six points to leaders Liverpool and two to reigning champions Manchester City – and resume their title challenge with a home date against Manchester United this weekend, while losing arguably the league’s most in-form player at the moment.
Heung-min Son has been one of the players to watch ever since his superb solo goal put the bow on Tottenham’s dominant 3-1 win over Chelsea, and though his next six appearances yielded “only” two goals and an assist, his sizzling form during the festive fixture list helped Spurs stay in the title race.
The next block of six games saw Son deliver a stunning seven goals and five assists, form that coincided with Spurs winning five of six games – though the one loss to Wolves may have fatally damaged their title hopes.
That sort of hot run is always welcome at a team that is constantly in need of players to reduce the burden on Harry Kane, yet, surprisingly for a team whose lack of depth is cited as a reason they’ll struggle to keep ground with City and Liverpool, Tottenham are well-equipped to cope with the South Korean’s departure for the Asian Cup in the UAE.
🇰🇷 Son Heung-Min’s Form for @SpursOfficial:— SPORF (@Sporf) January 4, 2019
🏟 vs Arsenal
⚽ 1 Goal
🏟 vs Everton
⚽ 2 Goals
🎯 1 Assist
🏟 vs Bournemouth
⚽ 2 Goals
🏟 vs Wolves
🎯 1 Assist
🏟 vs Cardiff
⚽ 1 Goal
🎯 1 Assist
🏟 vs Tranmere
⚽ 1 Goal
🎯 2 Assists
🔥 Unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/wp7hHU2PQ7
Tottenham have Lucas Moura on the books, a player who earlier this season won the league’s player of the month award, and a respectable tally of eight goals so far this season that should go up as he gets more minutes in Son’s absence – though he’s an injury doubt for the United game. Erik Lamela’s return to fitness is also coming at the perfect time, and if he can hit top form, Spurs will feel a lot more confident about weathering the temporary departure of their Korean star.
But, most importantly, the reason Tottenham shouldn’t be worried is simple: this team has a clearly defined “big three” who are more important to the club’s form than any other player.
In Kane, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen, the north London club have three of the Premier League’s most outstanding players. Son has elevated himself to that bracket in recent weeks, and his goals will be missed, but Moura and Lamela have the talent to at least come close to duplicating his output as long as they can find their feet alongside Spurs’ three big stars.
This is not to understate Son’s importance. The 26-year-old’s recent surge has been vital simply because at times, Kane, Alli, and Eriksen can bear an overlarge share of the burden at Tottenham. Having a player who can take some of the attention away from them, and deliver goals and assists at the rate he has been doing makes everyone else’s jobs much easier – apart from Lamela’s and Moura’s, perhaps, as they now face the pressure of matching up to their team-mate’s standards.
Minutes/Goal or Assist— Premier League Stats (@PremierStats2) January 10, 2019
🥇80.6 - Heung-Min #Son
🥈87.5 - Sergio #Aguero
🥉88.6 - Eden #Hazard
4️⃣88.9 - Sané
5️⃣92.3 - Salah
6️⃣97.0 - Sterling
7️⃣101 - Lamela
8️⃣102 - Aubameyang
9️⃣102 - Rashford
🔟106 - Kane
(Minimum 4 goals+assists) pic.twitter.com/eU7PLSWn0y
But both have shown, in flashes, that they’re capable of it. And Tottenham don’t need those two to go on a tear for the entire rest of the season, because Son will be back by the beginning of February at the latest. Apart from this weekend’s clash against United, the only crunch game the former Bayer Leverkusen player will miss is the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea, when Spurs will be defending a 1-0 lead.
League games against Fulham, Newcastle, and Watford – the latter two at home – are fixtures Spurs would be expected to win when all of the first-choice team is available barring one player, unless that player is Kane.
They may miss Son against a resurgent United on Sunday, but he wasn’t even in the squad when Spurs destroyed the Red Devils in August, a 3-0 win in which Moura scored twice. Tottenham have home advantage in this weekend’s return fixture, and every reason to go into that game with confidence, Son or no Son, even with United’s recent run of five straight wins since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over as manager.
Conversion Rate— Premier League Stats (@PremierStats2) January 7, 2019
🥇50.0% - Mesut #Özil
🥈38.1% - Anthony #Martial
🥉32.0% - Glenn #Murray
4️⃣30.0% - Schlupp
5️⃣26.1% - Lucas Moura
6️⃣25.9% - Aubameyang
7️⃣25.8% - Lukaku
8️⃣25.0% - Sterling
9️⃣25.0% - Shaqiri
🔟25.0% - Milner pic.twitter.com/EfaQKvc9Y0
For a team that usually would be justified going into a mini-panic over losing an important player, Spurs are surprisingly well-equipped this time around. Meanwhile, Son can go, hopefully for him win the Asian Cup with South Korea, and return even more buoyant and happy.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola praised Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s “incredible” start to life as interim boss at Manchester United.
Solskjaer has won his first five games since replacing Jose Mourinho in December – equalling Matt Busby’s record in a 2-0 FA Cup victory against Reading last week.
And the 45-year-old Norwegian could surpass Busby’s record with victory against Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday.
“His start is much better than mine, I lost my first game and drew the second [after being appointed in 2016],” said Guardiola.
“He won all the games. He is a young manager, getting incredible results. I saw a few minutes of games they played and they played good.
“But it is not my business to talk about other opponents, we have a tough game around the corner against Wolves.
“It will be a tough game. We have one day off and then prepare for the game.”