Prior to the Tottenham game this past weekend, I had decided that, whatever the result, I would upload a post claiming that Mauricio Pochettino should still be the next manager of Manchester United. However, the game, and victory, threw a huge spanner in the works…
I think we can all agree that nobody expected us to walk away from Wembley with three points. It has been widely publicised that Solskjaer’s first five games as caretaker manager of Manchester United were all games that he was expected to win. Hell, even Paul Ince claims he could have equalled Solskjaer’s start. However, delving deeper into the aftermath of Sunday’s 1-0 win has enhanced the United legends stock when it comes to taking over the reigns permanently.
Let’s be honest, the five games prior to the Spurs game didn’t really tell us a lot in regards to what Solskjaer’s style would be for the rest of the season. Sure, the attacking flair was back but we were rarely in a position where a ‘Plan B’ was needed. Tottenham was always going to be the game where we gained a measure on what could be achieved during the remainder of the season.
Billed as an audition between Ole and Poch, it is certainly the former that has edged ahead based on Sunday’s showing. United were ahead just before half time courtesy of a cool Marcus Rashford finish off the back of a sublime Paul Pogba pass and few could argue that we were not good for the lead. In fact, the first half was just like the games prior. The real test would be the second half when the inevitable Tottenham backlash began.
Tactically, Solskjaer got the second half down to a tee. Sure, we were under the cosh for long periods and, yes, De Gea was a brick wall but it is already forgotten that Hugo Lloris himself pulled off three decent saves to prevent United extending their lead. In short, Solskjaer had a Plan B. Pochettino, however, didn’t.
Tottenham switched formation at the beginning of the second half, a move immediately mirrored by Solskjaer to alleviate the threat posed by Ben Davies and Keiran Trippier. The enforced Erik Lamela change just before half time proved to be disastrous as Poch then stuck Christian Eriksen out on the wing to accommodate the more centrally-minded Lamela.
The Tottenham manager refused to make any more changes until the 81st minute, removing Harry Winks for Fernando Llorente, in what looked like a desperate final roll of the dice. Admittedly, at this stage it looked as if Tottenham were good value for a goal. However, with United tiring, the change should have come at least 10 minutes sooner. Solskjaer responded immediately by withdrawing Jesse Lingard for Diego Dalot to reinforce the defence.
Pochettino failed to make a third substitution as he, quite simply, ran out of ideas. Tottenham’s fail safe ‘Plan A’ just wasn’t working and he had no idea how to change it, despite only making two substitutions and leaving Danny Rose on the bench. Introducing Rose and his pace into the game could seriously have hurt a tiring United defence. Poch, simply, got it wrong.
David De Gea has quite rightly earned the plaudits for his Wembley heroics but Solskjaer should take just as much of the glory. He won’t, because he isn’t Jose Mourinho, but he deserves every iota of praise he has received. Not only did he out think Pochettino, he got the better of him tactically and wasn’t afraid to react instantly to what was panning out in front of him.
At this point I would say my preference would still be for Pochettino to be the next permanent manager of the club. However, not for one second would I be disappointed to see Ole be retained beyond this season.