Mauricio Pochettino has hailed under-pressure Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal as one of the best managers in the history of the game.
Tottenham host United on Sunday with the club’s traditional targets reversed, as Spurs look to keep their title hopes alive while the Red Devils chase a place in the top four.
Van Gaal’s future at Old Trafford has been under intense scrutiny all season, with underwhelming performances and inconsistent results leaving some supporters dissatisfied with the Dutchman.
Jose Mourinho and even Pochettino have been mentioned in connection with taking over the United post but Tottenham’s head coach insists Van Gaal is to be admired.
“I need to show respect because when I was a player he was a manager at Ajax and Barcelona and his background is amazing and was one of the references as a young coach,” Pochettino said.
“You always see Van Gaal when you were a player and how he was, always helping the younger players, I think he is one of the best in the history of managers.”
Pochettino is now stamping his own mark at White Hart Lane as Tottenham look to beat United this weekend and close a seven-point gap on league leaders Leicester.
Spurs will be favourites to win the match, a far-cry from the days when Sir Alex Ferguson needed only to say ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’ in his pre-match team talk.
“As manager and staff we try to translate our personality and character,” Pochettino said.
“It’s true you always show how we are – we are tough, we press high, we work hard on the pitch and in training. But we are a team who play very good football.
“Against Liverpool we tried to build from the back, take risks. This is how we are. This is our character.
“We are brave and this is how the team take risks to play along the grass, to be aggressive, to take the ball as soon as possible and dominate the game.
“It’s not always possible because you always have the opponent who has good players too and tries sometimes to do the same. But this is our personality.”
Tottenham could be 10 points behind Leicester by the time they kick-off against United as the Foxes faces struggling Sunderland earlier on Sunday.
Such a deficit would appear insurmountable with six games left to play but Pochettino says he will never give up.
“I believe. Always believe,” Pochettino said. “Will we have to win every game? Yes, it is true but I believe. When I see the players and the mentality we have.
“If it is not possible, it is not possible, this is football. But we are very confident and trust in ourselves. We are very strong.”