Get Pochettino on standby, United: Neil Humphreys
Argentinian might get the call if Solskjaer loses at Everton tomorrow
Halloween was last week. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not be made to watch such a horror show on TV again. Every clip must have terrified the Manchester United manager.
But there was no stopping Mauricio Pochettino.
Displaying the kind of exquisite timing that was sorely missed in United's 2-1 defeat by Istanbul Basaksehir yesterday morning (Singapore time), Pochettino launched into the longest job interview since the American presidency.
There he was, beaming for the Sky Sports cameras, as pundit Jamie Carragher effectively turned into the Argentinian's agent.
Look at those remarkable coaching figures at both Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, cooed Carragher, sending out a subliminal SOS to Old Trafford.
Pochettino's Southampton ran further than any other English Premier League club in the 2013/14 season. He turned Luke Shaw into the most exciting prospect at left-back since Ashley Cole.
At Southampton, Shaw turned heads. At United, he turns like an oil tanker.
But Carragher wasn't done with his public relations for Pochettino in their Monday night interview. Another impressive stat flashed on the screen.
Since 2013/14, of the teams that have covered the most distance per game over an entire season, the Argentinian has managed four of the top eight - with his Spurs sides of 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 joining his Southampton team of 2013/14 - who sit top of the standings.
Carragher stated the obvious for United. Pochettino makes teams fitter, faster and better, not to mention easier on the eye.
By the time the interview finished, Pochettino had passed the audition for a job that isn't yet available. But it might be by Monday morning.
Solskjaer has probably exhausted whatever faith was left in his managerial pedigree. Now he's living off the goodwill of past heroics.
Anyone under 30 may struggle to remember the 1999 Champions League final, but it's impossible to forget United's catastrophic defending yesterday morning.
Istanbul Basaksehir had never scored a goal in the Champions League. The debutants scored twice against opponents coming apart at the seams.
Strip away the rhetoric about transfer windows and indecisive executives, usually dished out to spare the pundits' pal in the dugout. Basaksehir benefited from United's poor coaching.
Solskjaer's insistence on conceding possession before launching counter-attacks inadvertently led to an absurd situation where Demba Ba broke free with every United player in Basaksehir's half.
A slowing, 35-year-old journeyman somehow held off United's half-paced defence to score a goal usually seen at Bishan Park among giggling kids.
On the touchline, assistant Mike Phelan could be heard screaming at Nemanja Matic to fall back. His orders went unheeded. Solskjaer did nothing.
United's positioning at set-pieces has drifted into parody. Neither Matic nor Harry Maguire closed the gap between themselves and a 35-year-old enjoying the autumn of his career with a club currently seventh in Turkey's top flight.
United's shambolic defending was so dispiriting, poor Axel Tuanzebe was removed for his own safety.
Matic filled in as an auxiliary centre-half. Jose Mourinho tried something similar as United manager. He was sacked weeks later.
The more things change, the more they stay the same at a fading club.
Ever since Solskjaer's training drills at Singapore's National Stadium in July 2019, the Red Devils have been urged to spring traps at speed, relying on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Shaw to direct their transitions.
Both took a leave of absence before Basaksehir's goals.
Last week, Solskjaer compared his fullbacks to David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, unhelpfully encouraging the pair to attain standards that are beyond them.
The needless comparison reeked of desperation as the United manager once again stressed his direct lineage to club royalty. His naive logic can sound childlike. He played with Beckham. So he can coach others to bend it like Beckham.
But he hasn't. With the possible exception of Mason Greenwood, Solskjaer has yet to elevate a player's performance to the next level.
It's true that Pochettino never won a trophy in English football (rather like Solskjaer). But, on a fraction of United's budget, the Argentinian shepherded a new, vibrant generation into the first team at two different clubs, playing an aesthetic brand of football rarely seen at Old Trafford.
He has taken less heralded players than Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Donny van de Beek and turned them into more consistent performers. Imagine what he might do with United's underachieving squad.
They'll be doing just that in the boardroom, especially if the defeats against Basaksehir and Arsenal are repeated at Everton tomorrow.
Another loss will only reaffirm what is already known, even among Solskjaer loyalists - it's unlikely to get any better than this.
And Pochettino is waiting.