Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino are two of the top coaches in the Premier League but both are trying to find the right formula for success at their respective clubs.
Pochettino enjoyed a positive first Premier League spell in his days with Tottenham and is now being backed in the transfer market to a ludicrous degree by Chelsea. He also has his time at Paris Saint-Germain to draw upon to, whereas Ten Hag is only into his second season as Manchester United manager. Ajax are the biggest club he had coached before arriving in England.
They will soon meet for their first Premier League clashes, but Ten Hag and Pochettino have locked horns before in one of the most dramatic Champions League semi-final ties in recent memory.
Here is the complete head-to-head record betwee Ten Hag and Pochettino.
The 2018/19 Champions League season was a pretty special one for drama, particularly during the semi-final tie between Ajax and Tottenham.
Neither side were expected to get so far in the tournament. Spurs had knocked out Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City to reach the final four while Ajax’s special squad featuring players like Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech, Andre Onana and Frenkie de Jong eliminated Juventus and Real Madrid.
In the first leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Ajax continued their superb form with a win that put them in great stead for the second game. The winner came from Van de Beek inside 15 minutes after Ziyech’s pass split the Tottenham defence and the future Man Utd midfielder turned and slotted past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Tottenham were left with a massive job to do in Amsterdam against a team that had won the hearts and minds of almost every football fan in Europe.
In the early stages of the return leg, Tottenham certainly did not rise to the occasion. Pochettino’s side only needed to win 1-0 to ensure extra time but found themselves 2-0 down at half-time with little hope of reaching the final remaining.
De Ligt headed in the first goal and a wonderful finish from Ziyech put Ten Hag’s side in complete control of the tie. As long as they avoided conceding three goals in the second half, the young and frighteningly talented Eredivisie team would reach the Champions League final.
However, Lucas Moura personally felt he could not let that happen and turned into a man on a mission in the second half. He scored ten minutes in and another followed just four minutes later. With half an hour to go, Tottenham were right back in it again.
Despite having all the momentum and posing a real threat, the tie-winning strike continued to evade Tottenham while Ajax posed a very serious threat at the other end.
The dream of European glory seemed over for Spurs, but then the stars aligned with a chain of events that could so easily have not resulted in a goal.
A punt upfield with only seconds remaining was brought down by a combination of De Ligt and Fernando Llorente and dropped perfectly to Dele Alli, who was able to quickly poke the ball into the box. His pass perfectly matched the run of Lucas who rolled the ball past Onana.
The entire Spurs team and benched wheeled away in complete disbelief and elation, while 11 Ajax players fell to the turf, knowing they’d thrown away a chance that may never come again in their careers. For many, it hasn’t and won’t.
It will have been an immense learning opportunity for Ten Hag, as well as heartbreaking. For Pochettino, it was one of the crowning nights of his managerial career. They may have lost the final, but just getting there was an immense achievement.