Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are going for their sixth win in six games since the baby faced assassin was appointed as interim boss until the end of the season. Six wins in a row; who would have imagined that under Jose Mourinho? In truth, not many. Standing in Solskjaer’s way are Spurs, and Mauricio Pochettino, the man that for many, should be the next Manchester United manager should United and Ole go their separate ways as planned.
Morning Dustin. What have you made of Spurs this season?
Hello Jimmy. This season has been quietly excellent. Despite being behind in the table to two outstanding football clubs in Liverpool and Manchester City, Spurs have managed to amass their most ever points at this point in a Premier League Season. It’s all the more remarkable that they’ve been able to do this with a squad hurt by numerous injuries, and without making a single signing in the summer transfer window.
Can Spurs challenge for this title?
Despite what the media has said in recent weeks, I hold no real hopes that Spurs can overtake both City and Liverpool for the title. Tottenham have played very well and are a very good team but they have also ridden their luck a bit this season. If both Liverpool and City come back down to earth at some point in the second half of the season Spurs are best positioned to be able to take advantage, but that hardly seems likely, does it? It’s frustrating, but you’d have to say that considering the talent in the top six, finishing top four would be a very good achievement. Anything beyond that is gravy.
How much credit does Pochettino deserve given the lack of money he has had at his disposal?
No question, Spurs are where they are right now this season due to Pochettino. Spurs have had a number of setbacks, from the injuries to key players to the stadium delays and the lack of transfer activity, and he’s put on a coaching master class, adjusting Tottenham’s tactics to achieve results with the players he has at his disposal. He deserves all the credit in the world for what Spurs have accomplished this season, but it does make you think what might have happened if Spurs had managed just one good signing this summer.
What do you think is the main difference is Man Utd under Solskjaer?
To me, United are suddenly playing with freedom and joy again. That’s a bit of a hoary old chestnut when you talk about a managerial change, but in this case the difference is rather striking. I can’t really prove that Solskjaer isn’t just clapping United players on the back and saying “have fun out there lads” but whatever he’s doing, it’s working. (You should really keep him.)
Is there a genuine concern among Spurs fans that Poch could make the swap to Old Trafford?
Yes, there is. United makes a certain amount of sense as a next step for Pochettino, as he’d be able to implement a style that is similar to what he achieves at Spurs, but with an overflowing transfer kitty. But really it comes down to what Pochettino wants to do. He has been, throughout his career, exceedingly loyal to his players and to his club — he only left Southampton when the owner who hired him left and he no longer felt supported. However, Pochettino has a certain amount of freedom at Spurs that he might not have at United under Ed Woodward, and he’s been making comments lately about wanting to stay at Spurs for 20 years and fully implement his long-term vision at the club.
If I’m honest, ultimately I don’t think he leaves, but he is also incredibly ambitious. That’s why Spurs fans are nervous — this Spurs squad could be set up like dominoes to collapse if Pochettino goes.
In terms of the game, what can Utd expect from Spurs tactically?
Spurs’ tactics lately have been very offensive and direct, mostly because they are down to Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko, and 18-year old Oliver Skipp in the center of midfield. In recent matches, they have attempted to almost bypass the midfield completely in favor of forward attacking runs from DESK — Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and Harry Kane. One of our writers referred to it as an “air-raid offense.” If Spurs can get a player like Eric Dier healthy in time for this weekend, we might see a return to more possession-oriented, play-through-the-midfield football, but otherwise expect a midfield “diamond” formation, quick transitions from defense to attack, and Spurs moving forward at pace.
Conversely, what do you expect from Utd?
I honestly haven’t watched enough United under Solskjaer to have a fully informed opinion, alas. What I can surmise is that it will be radically different to the dour tactics under Mourinho. I would guess we’ll see a lot more emphasis on midfield play through Paul Pogba, and United’s attackers having the freedom to push forward and make plays. United are a solid team despite the disappointing results, and I do not expect a Spurs thumping like what we saw at Old Trafford.
Finally, and thanks for taking the time to speak to me today, what is your score prediction?
I like this Spurs team and think they can get a result over United despite the positive atmosphere coming out of Manchester. I’m going for a nervy 2-1 Tottenham win, but I’m a lot less confident about this than I was pre-Jose sacking.