Gary Neville has claimed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a similar job on his hands at Manchester United as Mauricio Pochettino had when he took the reigns at Tottenham Hotspur.
Speaking on Sky Sports after United’s dismal 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, a team already relegated, he said: “As a manager, you want to like your team. I look at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, I can’t imagine he’s down there thinking he likes watching this lot – I don’t.
“This isn’t a team at all. It reminds me of the Tottenham group Mauricio Pochettino inherited, with Kaboul, Adebayor, Capoue in, a group of individuals without any real spirit – he dismantled it piece by piece.”
Now, one can understand where Neville was coming from. He’s a man who bleeds for United and he loves the club but this assessment simply demeans the job Pochettino has done at Spurs.
He has turned the club into Premier League title contenders and also took them to a Champions League semi-final, all on a shoestring budget.
And when you compare the first side Pochettino put out – against West Ham United, in a 1-0 win – with the first team Solskjaer selected, in a 5-1 battering of Cardiff City, the differences become starkly apparent, particularly when one takes into account the transfer fees taken to bring the players to the football club…
Spurs shelled out under £8m to buy their captain from Lyon. Sir Alex Ferguson convinced United to part with close to £20m to buy a goalkeeper he envisioned becoming the club’s No.1 for years to come. Perhaps this one was a sound investment.
The deal for Naughton saw £10m sent to Sheffield United, with Kyle Walker also coming along for the ride. Let’s assume that it was £5m for one and £5m for the other. Young still cost more than both players alike and, though he has stuck it out at United, is he on the same level as Walker? Not at all. He is better than Naughton, though, so there is that.
Kaboul cost Spurs £9.5m when Harry Redknapp brought him to the club for a second stint while Eric Dier was a bargain £4m. Lindelof cost £31m alone, while Jones, a player Ferguson adored, set United back £17m. Are you sensing a theme?
Spurs snapped up Rose when he was still a whippersnapper at Leeds; Shaw became the most expensive teenager in world football when he moved to Old Trafford.
Nabil Bentaleb, now at Schalke, came through the youth ranks at Spurs. Herrera was brought in from Athletic Bilbao for nearly £30m and is perhaps one of the best United signings from this side.
Capoue has become a star at Watford but he never shined in north London and the £9.4m spent was easily written off. Matic, who is struggling in Manchester, cost more than quadruple Capoue’s transfer fee.
The two teams’ creative hubs; Eriksen was signed for a bargain £11.5m from Ajax after Gareth Bale left Spurs, while Pogba briefly became the world’s most expensive footballer when he returned to Old Trafford from Juventus. One wonders who United would rather have these days, mind.
A rare win for United here; Lennon joined Spurs from Leeds United for a nominal price but there was a fee involved. Lingard came through the United academy.
Rashford is another academy boy who has made it big at United, while Adebayor cost £5m when he made his initial loan move from Manchester City permanent. It did not work out.
Lamela was meant to be the heir to Bale’s throne at Spurs but he is now permanently injured and seems to have alienated half the Spurs fanbase. Martial, meanwhile, is yet to deliver on his astonishing potential and has, ironically, been linked with Tottenham in the past.
Spurs started the game against West Ham with Roberto Soldado, Lewis Holtby, Andros Townsend, Harry Kane, Michael Dawson, Brad Friedel and Ben Davies on the bench. Soldado cost £26m. Davies cost £10m and Holtby a minimal £1.5m, while Dawson was part of a joint-£8m deal that also involved Andy Reid. Assuming he cost half of that, Spurs’ total comes to £41.5m.
Neville claims that Solskjaer has a similar job on his hands to that which Pochettino inherited. He doesn’t.
The Norwegian has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal and did not even start Fred in his first game; the Brazilian cost more than Spurs’ record signing Davinson Sanchez.
Yes, the recruitment may have gone wrong at Old Trafford. Yes, there may be a few unsavoury characters in the dressing room. Yes, there may be a few too many passengers.
But the bottom line is this: Comparing this United team – who have all the money in the world – with the Spurs team Pochettino inherited is akin to comparing Waitrose with Lidl.
That the two have swapped roles now is a testament to the genuinely phenomenal management of the Argentine.
And Neville’s words simply serve to demean the job that he has done in north London.