There was a clear sub-plot as Manchester United beat Tottenham 1-0 in the Premier League on Sunday.
The game pitted the man who is the favourite to become United’s next permanent manager in Mauricio Pochettino against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the man who would love to turn his interim role into a permanent one.
Solskjaer came out on top due to Marcus Rashford’s first-half strike. Here’s a look at how the two men fared at Wembley.
Pochettino has shuffled his pack in recent weeks amid a plethora of games, but there was little doubt his big guns were going to feature here. He brought Jan Vertonghen back into the team after the composed defender missed the last eight games with a thigh injury, while his exciting front four of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min all started, the latter playing his final match before heading off to the Asian Cup to join up with South Korea. Solskjaer unsurprisingly brought back Paul Pogba after an injury as he reverted back to the very first side he picked at Cardiff last month.
Pochettino surprisingly admitted before the game that he celebrated Solskjaer’s famous Champions League-winning goal in 1999 and that he was looking forward to talking with him for the first time. The pair shared a warm embrace before kick-off before the Norwegian headed to the back of the Wembley dugout. The pair were barely on the touchline at the same time together so there was no in-match communication, but they shared another nice moment at the end as Pochettino congratulated his counterpart on the win. Whether that 1999 Nou Camp chat is still on the agenda remains to be seen.
Manchester United fans may have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at their side’s approach as they have not attacked top-four opposition in this manner away from home for a long time. Solskjaer perhaps recognised that he does not have the players to try and contain Spurs, so tried to get at them with pace down the flanks. That paid dividends just before the break as Pogba fed Rashford, who put the afterburners on and fired his side into the lead. Ultimately, though, it was not those tactics that won this game for United, it was the performance of their goalkeeper, who made a string of super saves after the break to somehow keep his side’s lead intact. After a poor first-half display from Spurs they found their level after the break with their usual attacking brand of football and will be scratching their heads at how they lost this game.
Solskjaer is desperate for the chance to get the job full-time and could not have done anything more so far, having enjoyed a record-breaking start to a Manchester United managerial tenure with six wins from six. This will have been more of an audition for him than for Pochettino as it was the first real top quality opposition United had come up against and he will have come away in credit. Their defensive frailties were still there for all to see and had it not been for De Gea, his winning run will have ended. From Pochettino’s point of view this might just put the coolers on the speculation linking him to United for the moment, as although this result will have no bearing on his suitability for the job, the groundswell of support for the Norwegian is likely to grow.