While the Argentine manager is claimed to be ‘the favorite’ for the job, Ten Hag is someone whom Ralf Rangnick wants as his successor.
Both managers have had challenging seasons managing PSG and Ajax as well as helping them lead a title charge in their leagues.
Here we’ll look at the record of the two managers amid the speculation around the United job.
Pochettino’s PSG side has absolutely dominated things in Ligue 1 so far this season. They’re currently on top of the table with 62 points from 26 games, 15 points clear of second-place Marseille. PSG have only lost 2 games in the league and scored 56 goals.
Ajax are also leading the Eredivisie table with 57 points from 24 games. However, they only have a 2 point lead over second-place PSV. That being said, the Dutch side have scored a whopping 71 goals – averaging nearly 3 goals a game in the league.
When it comes to domestic cup competitions, however, things are not so similar. Ten Hag’s side have progressed to the semi-finals of the KNVB Cup – where they’ll face AZ Alkmaar.
Champions League record
Ajax had an incredible dominant group stage in the Champions League and were among the 3 teams who didn’t lose a single group game. Ten Hag inspired his side to win all their 6 games, scoring 20 goals and defeating Borussia Dortmund twice (4-0 and 3-1) to knock them out of the competition.
They ended up drawing some games against Club Brugge and Leipzig, allowing City to win the group. PSG finished second in the group just behind City with 3 wins and 2 draws – only losing one.
In the Round of 16 so far, Pochettino’s side has outperformed Ten Hag’s. This is despite them facing a side like Real Madrid, with PSG picking up a slender 1-0 win in the first leg.
Ajax, however, stuttered against Benfica and could only get a 2-2 draw away from home.
Pochettino and Ten Hag might not share the same philosophy, but both emphasize on the need to dominate possession and control games with an iron fist. While Ten Hag is from the Ajax school of ‘Total Football’, Pochettino is more about looking to score from the breaks and etching well-knit moves into goals.
That being said, the way both teams build their attacking play-up has been similar in their respective leagues. In the Eredivisie, Ajax likes to dominate the midfield battle the most, like any other top team – with 42% of their action zone being in the middle.
What is unique is how they distribute their attacking patterns through the wings. This allows their wingers and wing-backs more space to attack, encouraging them to go forward.
This has resulted in a lot of goals coming from the wings, with right-winger Antony and right-back Noussair Mazrzoui having 16 goals and 13 assists combined in all competitions.
Similarly, PSG also love to control things in the middle – with 44% of their action zone in midfield as well.
Similar to Ajax, Pochettino’s side have also attacked the ball through the left-wing most with 39% of their attacks as well coming from that wing. When you have the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi often operating from the wings, it's obvious to move through the sides and that has helped PSG torment opponents.
One noticeable difference could come in the action zones in the opposition third. While PSG have enjoyed 32% of the control in their opponents’ area in Ligue 1, Ten Hag’s Ajax side have dominated 39% of the control – leading to them scoring more goals as well.
Ten Hag is a no-nonsense manager who won’t accept anything other than perfection. He desires more from his players and isn’t satisfied until he’s able to get the very best out of him.
In a quote that perhaps perfectly reflects his personality, Ten Hag said after Ajax’s 5-0 win over FC Twente last month: “With the tempo that my team is playing in.. at a certain stage during the game the opponent will feel finished. I think that even with the 5-0 end result, they got away with it.”
Then he’s what he said after a 3-0 win over Heracles: “The only thing I can blame my team is that we only won 3-0. Today I enjoyed my team. The positional play was excellent and the pressing was great, but we had to score more goals.”
The comments may come off as a little bit smug, but it’s probably Ten Hag’s arrogance which has helped him become such a top-quality manager.
One challenge that is guaranteed to pop up for any manager to take over at United is their ability to handle egos in the squad, because there are quite a lot of them in the dressing room.
Pochettino has a star-studded squad to manage in PSG and has grown tired of managing so many big personalities in the dressing room.
He hinted at his discontent at having to babysit the PSG team, saying earlier this season: “We manage people with emotions, everyone's behaviour is not a flat line.
“It's a succession of ups and downs -- one is happy, another is hurt, one is performing well, another not I think the most important thing for the staff is to try to balance the moods.
“We must not forget that we have in our hands the best players in the world, but also their families, their media entourages, their followers. It's not easy.”
Pochettino and Ten Hag are both experienced managers who could have a lot to offer at United, but it remains to be seen who the club moves for.