Nathan King, UWS News
Manchester United interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces his first real test this weekend and his side travel to Wembley to play Spurs and favourite for the job, Mauricio Pochettino.
Since Solskjaer joined in mid-December, United have five wins from five. Yes, it could it be said that they were winnable games, but the question has to be asked of whether Jose Mourinho would have won all of those games or not?
United are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but of course, Spurs are a completely different opposition to those he has come up against so far. This is Ole’s first real tactical test, a game in which United have to impress if he wants a chance at being the permanent manager next season.
Of course, that was back in August, when Jose Mourinho was still at the helm and confidence was at an all-time low in the United dressing room after a turgid pre-season and uninspiring summer transfer window. Almost five months later and the mood is completely different around Old Trafford, but whether that will be enough to get a result remains to be seen.
United in Dubai
A potential advantage for United is the fact that Spurs had a midweek cup tie at home to Chelsea. Solskjaer capitalised on this as United jetted off to Dubai for warm weather training (something that was an annual occurrence during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at the club).
While United were enjoying their time in the sun, Spurs are coming off the back of a 1-0 victory against Chelsea in the first-leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final in which Harry Kane scored from the spot thanks to VAR intervention.
Spurs done well to grind out a result, as Mauricio Pochettino remains on the hunt for his trophy with the North London side.
Son signs off
For Spurs, this will be the last time that Heung-Min Son features for them until February at the very latest as he jets off to play at the Asian Cup for South Korea. Of course, not returning till February would mean that South Korea reach the final.
It’s safe to say that this has come at the wrong time of the season for Spurs and for the South Korean, but he hasn’t let the disappointment of being away from Spurs keep his performances down. Speaking to Sky Sports, Son said:
“To play for your country is always a proud moment, but it’s tough for me having missed one month of the season already.
“I want to go with three points, with confidence to Dubai.”
Predicted Line-ups and tactics
Regularly against United, Mauricio Pochettino has favoured a three-man defence. Of course, that was to combat Jose Mourinho’s approach to the game. However, don’t be surprised if the Argentine sticks with that, especially after the return of Jan Vertonghen from injury.
Heung-Min Son will most likely start alongside Harry Kane, especially since it will be the South Korean’s last game for some time. Victor Wanyama still remains sidelined for Spurs and Moussa Dembele will most likely not feature after interest from the Chinese League, meaning the Harry Winks will start at the heart of the Spurs midfield.
So far for United, Solskjaer has employed a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system with Paul Pogba as the most advanced midfielder. Expect him to do the same again, confirming the Pogba is in fact fit to face Spurs this weekend after a horror tackle from Newcastle United’s Jonjo Shelvey kept him out of last week’s FA Cup tie with Reading.
After three goals in three games off the bench, Solskjaer may opt to start Romelu Lukaku ahead of Frenchman Anthony Martial, especially after the Belgian replaced him in two of those three games. Of course, that could see Marcus Rashford shifted out to the left-hand-side, a role which he filled towards the end of the Reading game after Alexis Sanchez limped off.
Who gets the job, Ole or Poch?
Of course, there is also a battle between the two managers. With Solskjaer being the interim boss, Pochettino is the front-runner to take over full-time at United come the end of the season. However, if United can overcome Spurs, the Ole can take the first real step decreasing Pochettino’s chances of getting the job, while increasing his own chances at the same time. But what do United fans think about it? Here’s what a United fans group thinks:
Comments on the poll:
Ryan Pullin (a Group admin): “I’d say no to Poch regardless of what happens, he doesn’t have the right mentality for us.”
Carl Da: A decision shouldn’t be based on one game, so yes a case can still be made (for Pochettino to be the manager). However, I’d rather stick with what is working rather than risk getting it wrong.”
Michael Pryplesh: “Though, I certainly think that our results in the ‘handful’ of games against top sides like Spurs, PSG, City, and Liverpool etc certainly should weigh extremely heavily. If Olé shows that he can tactically hang with and defeat top teams, he will have won my support.”
Of course, the dream scenario for United fans would be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get the job full-time, but first and foremost he must prove he can handle the rest of the top-six.