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Connolly column: Pochettino is Utd class

David Connolly mentions Mauricio Pochettino as a potential future Manchester United manager and hails Roberto Martinez's approach to training.

David Connolly has played and scored in every division in England, as well as in the Eredivisie for Feyenoord and internationally for the Republic of Ireland. He has got the highest possible UEFA coaching licence and is still playing in Sky Bet League Two for Oxford, on loan from Portsmouth.

Every Thursday, David will provide an insight into life as a footballer throughout the leagues in his exclusive column for TEAMtalk.

Jose plays to strengths: Last week, David defended Jose Mourinho's style of play at Chelsea and also had praise for Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Van Gaal a great coach: David put Chris Hughton's sacking down to the form of Norwich's strikers and claimed Louis van Gaal would improve Tottenham's players.

Wembley cash misspent: David suggested the FA misspent when building Wembley and also discussed the stadium situations at Spurs, West Ham and Manchester United.

United and Arsenal problem: David argued that both Manchester United and Arsenal suffer from having too many similar players - and said David Moyes has bought badly.

Rodgers outfoxed Moyes: David credited Brendan Rodgers for Liverpool's win at Manchester United and named the Northern Irishman as his Manager of the Year.

Pardew not a monster: David offered a defence of Alan Pardew after his 'moment of madness' and was full of praise for Southampton and their young stars.

Moyes may have lost backing of players

The big news this week has obviously been of Manchester United relieving David Moyes of his duties.

The display against Everton at the weekend seems to have been the tipping point but there are no doubt a number of factors which led to his exit.

For starters, his comments about needing to sign more players and rebuild the team won't have helped him.

He was obviously not in a position to strengthen as the window shut on January 31, but the current players won't have appreciated the comments, nor would the owners want to hear the champions needed major investment.

I don't believe it helps when a manager publicly states that a team needs an overhaul as you can lose any respect the players may have had for you. You are then stuck with players that you don't rate but need to perform - but they won't, knowing that you don't rate them. Performance levels drop and once you lose the dressing room it is a hard road back.

Moyes' mentality may also have been part of the problem. For those at the club for a long period of time, to hear their manager call Liverpool favourites before the game at Old Trafford last month would have been akin to blasphemy.

Ryan Giggs rather deliberately corrected this before they played Bayern Munich, stating that United were in no way inferior to the Germans - a clear indicator that the mindsets of Moyes and others at the club were vastly different.

That is perhaps understandable as Moyes has not managed at that level before but compare his comments throughout his reign to those of Brendan Rodgers last season at Liverpool. He may not have experienced success at that level before but he was able to ingratiate himself with the players and fans with comments that showed he understood the size of the club and what is expected of it.

To make matters worse for Moyes, as I mentioned in a previous column, his signings, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata, didn't fit in with the players already at the club or any possible formation. There was no clear philosophy.

These were no doubt worrying signs for those in charge, and entrusting Moyes with a bigger budget in the summer may have been too much to contemplate.

The question is, who should they entrust with that task?

United missed the boat with Pep Guardiola, and Jurgen Klopp has ruled himself out so it is not easy to find the right candidate.

The job may have come a little early for him to be considered, but I feel Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton is an outstanding coach that gets the most out of what he has available.

He has comfortably led the club into the top 10 and could also attract the likes of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, my old team-mates, to Old Trafford if wanted.

It's unlikely he will be appointed but I believe tactically he is good enough, and he is willing to give youth a chance, much like Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have done on Merseyside this season.

The way in which Martinez is fluid with formations is another hallmark of a philosophy that would attract United, but he has yet to achieve success in the upper echelons. After the failure of Moyes, that might stand against both him and Pochettino.

Instead United are likely to look for a pair of steady hands with experience and know-how of the top level.

Carlo Ancelotti is a fantastic manager that would gain the instant respect of players and fans having won everything there is as a player and a manager.

Furthermore, very few stories of unhappy players come out of the clubs he manages. He treats his players like men and has more recent club experience than the other likely main candidate, Louis van Gaal, who last managed a club side three years ago.

However, Ancelotti is under contract at Real Madrid so it may be that Van Gaal is appointed to steady the ship for a season or two whilst those doing so well like Pochettino and Martinez continue their development.

If not United, I can see Pochettino ending up in the blue half of Manchester in the future.

As for Moyes, he will no doubt bounce back and get another job. He needs not look further than Tony Pulis, who has bounced back so well after losing his job at Stoke.

Regarding his contract at United, it is interesting that on a six-year deal he can be dispensed relatively cheaply. Given how tough a job it was to follow Sir Alex Ferguson, maybe he should have been paid more if sacked so early into a contract, or maybe he should have signed a shorter contract with less stipulations.

Either way, he has had little time in the job to prove himself. The players are safe with their long contacts - they cannot be sacked if they fail to deliver - so the balance of power is skewed.

Leaving it late not always a bad thing

The continued furore over Cardiff City's leaked team before their recent game against Crystal Palace has also been interesting and ties in with Moyes' time at United.

While Cardiff obviously suffered from deciding on their team too early, Rio Ferdinand complained early in the season that he did not like the fact Moyes left it until the morning of the game to name his XI.

Over the years I have had lots of different experiences of how and when teams are named - and with varying results.

Some players like to know they are starting two days before a match when an 11v11 game takes place in training or perhaps the day before if some team shape is being worked on against mannequins or the youth team.

By knowing they are playing in advance some players gain confidence and are more relaxed and settled than if they are named in the starting team on the morning of the game or in the dressing room beforehand.

However, with a squad of typically 25 players it is hard to keep everyone happy and that has been even harder, I have found, if a starting team is named early in the week..

Some players not starting switch off mentally, don't try as hard in training, can go to the shops walking about all day, eat the wrong foods, tell their family and friends or agent they are not starting and not have the same focus as those who are starting.

It can be hugely detrimental to the individual player and the group as these substitutes can have a major impact on the game.

Someone may get injured in the warm up or after a few minutes and suddenly

you need to utilise a player that has been discounted for most of the week and may not have trained properly.

I have been at a club where the starting team did tactical work unopposed whilst the non starters watched on. The non starters detrain and waste time not working at their game when asked to watch others, while bitterness and resentment can build against the manager for demeaning them in this way.

Regardless of when you name your team, it is important, of course, to keep it private as you need to work tactically on your opponents so you can exploit any weaknesses they have and be ready for their set-pieces or different formations and players they may use. You have to cover every base.

For example, if your upcoming opponent plays 4-2-3-1 with a slow striker but you hear they are playing a faster striker or two strikers it will affect how high your defensive line is, your goalkeeper's starting position and so forth

If they mark man to man at set pieces and you know they have changed personnel with a smaller player you may want to isolate him and will work on this before the match.

All of these things count and you should try and keep any advantage you can. If as a manager you believe the tactics and personnel you use are crucial and want them kept private you should have that wish respected by your team, but you cannot guarantee that.

Not everyone will keep it to themselves and, as I have said, unhappy players will talk to their agent or friends on the other team. It may not affect the result but the point is that it is not the manager's wish to let the opposition know. It should remain the right of the manager as to how and when the team is named.

At one club we would not be told until 1.30pm on the day of the game what the team was. It meant that every training session before the game counted. At another club we would play tactical 11v11 games; you could play your way in or out of the team by how you did, and the team again would be named close to kick off.

Keeping players hungry can happen by making every training session count and every day a chance to impress and get into the side.

You may have a core group of players who are always likely to part of your starting team but you need to keep the rest of the group engaged too as preventing them from losing hunger and desire is important for the whole group. Also, complacency can be contagious and it is the fear of losing your place which can often, in my experience, push performance levels higher.

Martinez comments a breath of fresh air

On the subject of training, Everton boss Roberto Martinez said recently that he takes responsibility if a player picks up a soft tissue muscle injury as it reflects on his training, his recovery and his selection.

I thought that was brilliant. I have lost count of all the soft tissue injuries I have had over the years and not once have I come across a manager who said it may have been because of the training, the training pitch or some other factor.

At one club we travelled to a game on a Friday early to miss the traffic, spent five hours on a bus, jumped straight off, got changed and trained with minimal warm up then moved into a shooting drill and a match when I hurt my hamstring.

I considered why and it could have been for any number of reasons but I don't think the build-up helped, so when you hear a manager like Martinez say he is responsible it is like a breath of fresh air.

Some clubs lose their way in a season when injuries strike - just look at Arsenal and how a number of soft-tissue injuries have affected their campaign.

Manchester City, and the way Sergio Aguero's hamstring problem was handled, also needs to be highlighted, and the fact he was brought back probably before the injury had 100% healed.

By contrast, Championship winners Leicester have managed to have 98% of the squad available all season, which is an excellent effort from all concerned.

At Oxford recently we were at around 60% and it does impact on your results I believe, particularly in the winter months when the load of matches increases and avoiding soft tissue injuries is vitally important.

David Connolly's column comes to you courtesy of Sky Bet, the title sponsor of the Football League.

For a wide range of match odds and specials on all Sky Bet Football League matches and a 30 free matched bet when you join, go to skybet.com.


Fat Loss

Headlines for Man City this week

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  • Connolly column: Pochettino is Utd class


  • David Connolly mentions Mauricio Pochettino as a potential future Manchester United manager and hails Roberto Martinez's approach to training.

  • Regional Rumours in the Press: Spurs eye Moyes


  • David Moyes is emerging as a contender to become Tottenham's next boss but senior figures at Spurs are divided over his possible appointment.

  • Rumours in the Press: Van Gaal Keane on Roy


  • Louis van Gaal could appoint Roy Keane as his assistant if he is given the Manchester United job and Juventus want Robin van Persie and Nani.

  • Premier League: Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta vows to keep fighting


  • Pablo Zabaleta has warned Liverpool that the title race is far from finished and says Manchester City will keep fighting until the end of the season.

  • Regional Rumours in the Press: Everton eye Cleverley


  • Everton are plotting an £8m bid for Tom Cleverley, Newcastle want Jack Colback, while Ashley Cole will be handed £70,000 a week at Real Madrid.

  • World Cup: Manchester City's Martin Demichelis admits Argentina call-up is unlikely


  • Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis has admitted that he does not expect to be recalled to the Argentina squad for the World Cup, but says he is ready if coach Alejandro Sabella does select him.

  • Rumours in the Press: United close in on Van Gaal


  • Louis van Gaal has rejected the chance to become Spurs boss - paving the way for the him to join Man Utd, while Real Madrid want Ashley Cole.

  • Premier League: Manchester City must wait to discover extent of David Silva injury


  • Manchester City will have to wait until at least Wednesday to discover the extent of David Silva's injury.

  • Premier League: Jose Mourinho ready to change Chelsea team against Liverpool


  • Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is ready to make wholesale changes for Sunday's crucial clash with Liverpool.

  • Premier League: Manchester City to assess David Silva after midfielder stretchered off


  • Manchester City will assess David Silva's ankle injury on Tuesday, amid fears he could miss the Premier League title run-in.

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