MAURICIO POCHETTINO has scared Tottenham fans with his choice of words over the job at Manchester United.
For his comments are spookily similar to those he uttered four years ago — just 18 days before he quit Southampton for the Spurs hotseat.
United have installed former forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager until the end of the season after the sacking of Jose Mourinho on Tuesday.
But Spurs boss Poch is United’s No 1 choice to take charge in the summer.
And the Argentine’s “enjoy the journey” response to questions about the United job last week are reminiscent of his “enjoy this moment” answer when he was quizzed about the Tottenham job as Saints boss.
In May 2014, Poch was Spurs’ top choice after they had just told Tim Sherwood he would not be keeping the role of first-team coach.
At the time, Pochettino refused to rule himself out of the White Hart Lane post, admitting: “I don’t think you can live in fear of the future.
“I think that what is important right now is to enjoy this moment. To enjoy the present and this amazing season we have had.”
Fast forward to December 2018. The boot is on the other foot for Spurs but Pochettino’s attitude is remarkably similar.
Last Tuesday, before the club gagged him and everyone else from talking about the Old Trafford vacancy, Poch said: “What is going to happen in the summer? What is going to happen tomorrow? No-one knows. The most important thing is to enjoy the journey.”
So what, you might say. He’s right, no-one knows the future.
But back in 2014, Pochettino probably had a good idea he would end up at Tottenham because he signed for them just 18 days after saying those words.
And if he wanted to stop talk about the United job — or any other job — and commit himself to Spurs, then he could.
Because when Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane parted company in the summer, just days after Pochettino had signed a new five-year contract extension at Spurs, he did just that, saying in June: “I’m committed to Spurs and still have a long contract with them I just signed.”
In November, just after Real had sacked Julen Lopetegui, the coach was linked once more with the Bernabeu.
But Poch again sounded his committed to Tottenham.
He said: “We are very close to creating, in terms of facilities, one of the best clubs in the world.
“Of course everything comes with a cost. Sometimes to win titles today is difficult, for many reasons that you and our fans know very well. But sometimes patience is short and frustration is there.
“I think we are so close to reaching the last level but we need to have that patience that makes us stronger.
“When I arrived at Tottenham the first video Daniel [chairman Levy] showed me had the message ‘When we are talking about Tottenham Hotspur, we are talking about the glory’. I want to feel the glory with Tottenham.
“I think when I watch video from the 1960s, it’s very emotional, and I think it would be fantastic to deliver that moment again for our fans.”
But a month is a long time in football and the Argentinian now knows that the United job is there for the taking in the summer.
Maybe he has football’s equivalent of the seven-year itch — or in his case, the five-year itch.
Pochettino said last week: “After nearly five years there are a lot of rumours about my position as manager at Tottenham. I cannot answer this type of question because rumours happen.”
But he CAN answer this type of question — as you can see from his June quotes about the Real job.
Maybe Pochettino just does not fancy Madrid. Maybe United is the job he really wants.
Or maybe he intends to play them both off against Spurs in pursuit of an even more lucrative contract or a bigger transfer budget.
Whatever the truth, Levy should probably have a new video made and tell Pochettino again why his head should not be turned by United, Real or anyone else.
Because this is a man who is very much keeping his options open — just like he did when Spurs themselves were sniffing around in 2014.