Louis van Gaal has hailed the achievements of Mauricio Pochettino as Manchester United prepare to visit Premier League title-challengers Tottenham on Sunday.
Spurs go into the match at White Hart Lane this weekend as genuine contenders for English football’s biggest prize, a role more commonly associated with their visitors.
United must make do with the race for Champions League qualification – they are fifth, one point behind local rivals Manchester City with seven games of the league season remaining.
The Red Devils could yet win a first FA Cup since 2004, with a quarter-final replay at West Ham coming up on Wednesday.
This weekend, though, it is Tottenham who will deservedly be the centre of attention.
And Van Gaal was generous in his praise of Pochettino’s accomplishments after two seasons in charge.
“I think that they have a very good squad and I have said this also last year,” he said.
“He has made a team of this squad, a team that presses high with a good positional game and they score a lot of goals.
“They also have a lot of clean sheets though, which show they are a well-organised and structured team. I think you can give credit to Mauricio Pochettino.”
Spurs’ Argentine manager has not only won admirers for his team’s style of play and sustained assault on the championship, but also for bringing through a core of home-grown talent, headlined by Harry Kane and Dele Alli, along with Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose and Ryan Mason.
Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Friday, Pochettino agreed with suggestions the clutch of domestic talent could aspire to match the achievements of United’s ‘Class of 92’, a crop including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville which fired the Red Devils to more than a decade of dominance under Alex Ferguson.
“Yes, why not?” he said. “This is something we decided on.
“We need to give them time to work hard so they can improve. But I think we have showed so far [the] quality in the team.”
The match will come too soon for Wayne Rooney to be involved as the United captain continues his recovery from a knee injury with the club’s Under-21s.
Ashley Young and Phil Jones, while lacking sharpness, are back in selection contention.
Nabil Bentaleb (knee) is Tottenham’s only confirmed absentee, with Clinton N’Jie and Jan Vertonghen (both knee) doubtful to return.
Key Opta stats:
– Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are yet to score against Manchester United in three meetings.
– United have not lost any of the last 14 Premier League games against Spurs at White Hart Lane, but have drawn six of the last eight (W8 D6).
– Tottenham’s last home win over United in the league came on the final day of the 2000-01 season when Glenn Hoddle was managing them.
– Harry Kane has netted a league-high 22 goals this season in the top flight, more than any other Tottenham player has ever managed in a single Premier League campaign.
– Tottenham have recovered the most points from losing positions in the top flight in 2015-16 (19).
– United have bagged just 39 goals in their 31 league games this season; they last netted fewer at this stage of a top-flight campaign in 1989-90 (37).
– Since making his Premier League debut in September 2013, Christian Eriksen has created 250 goal-scoring chances for team-mates, a haul only Mesut Ozil (266) can better in that timeframe.