Solskjaer has got up from a nine count. This week was always going to be a crucial week for United and Solskjaer, especially given the increasing pressure on the Norwegian’s job security. Him and his team answered these questions with conviction on Wednesday night with a near flawless performance in a 2-1 win against Jose’s Spurs at Old Trafford. A timely win and I will go through five takeaway points from the game that I believe will be crucial going forward.
This win could potentially provide a catalyst for our season when it was looking increasingly likely that our season was going to get worse, not better. Since Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking from Tottenham just a couple of weeks previous to this fixture, there has been an enormous shadow cast over Solskjaer’s position in the dugout. Just on Tuesday, reports surfaced that Pochettino was keen on taking the job at United if Ole was relieved of his duties. Regardless of whether these are true or not, they added to the pressure of needing a result against a resurgent Spurs side.
What we saw was arguably the most complete ninety minutes in Solskjaer’s permanent tenure. He went bold with starting Greenwood in Martial’s absence, in order to allow the form of Rashford to continue from the left wing. When the Tottenham equaliser occurred before half time, I was worried that our heads would drop given our vulnerability of late, but we rose to the occasion and won the penalty instantly after half time which was beyond encouraging to see.
It is unclear if Solskjaer can turn things around, but tonight was certainly a good way to start starting to do so.
McTominay Provides An Edge
Scott McTominay’s fitness was a big talking point in the leadup to the game. In recent weeks, we have been forced to deploy Fred and Pereira in a midfield two and it has flattered to deceive. What Scott brought to proceedings tonight was a calmness in midfield and the ability to win the ball in a congested midfield area.
Despite not being the best technically, Scott in this current United side is absolutely fundamental to the way that we are trying to play. Yes, in an ideal world, it is doubtful you would build a midfield around him. But we are far from ideal and must accept where we are at this moment in time. I never thought I would say this, but tonight showed again that Scott McTominay is fundamental to Manchester United.
Rashford Is In Unstoppable Form
Rashford was a man possessed in this game. Everytime he got the ball, Serge Aurier was backpedalling. Despite Gazzaniga’s poor handling for our number 10’s first goal, Rashford even attempting to score from there showed the confidence that he currently has. The revival has been happening for a variety of reasons, from his England performances in the last international break to the return of Anthony Martial which has allowed Rashford to carry the ball from deep from a wider position and express himself more.
This confidence was even showed after being brought down clumsily by Moussa Sissoko just after the restart, as Rashford stepped up and put the penalty away with a level of authority and conviction that we have not seen by him when he has stepped up this season. He then whisked off and celebrated with passion and is clearly enjoying his football right now.
Fred’s Best United Performance?
Fred has come in for a lot of criticism in recent weeks and months. Some fair, some less so. He has forged an effective partnership with McTominay in midfield in recent times and tonight he showed quality as well as his usual intensity.
One of our biggest downfalls as of late has been our midfielders’ inability to find our forward stars. Today, Fred was moving the ball around the park with authority and controlled the tempo of the game when he had the ball. He and McTominay absolutely nullified a strong Spurs midfield for long portions of the game and were key in our eventual victory on Wednesday night.
It is good to learn that Fred is capable of performances like these and we should hope to see this again at the Etihad this coming weekend.
Ole Bosses Jose
This win would have meant a lot to Solskjaer and a lot of this would be for the message that beating the previous manager of the club he loves in a convincing manner would send. Solskjaer’s boldness with putting Greenwood upfront allowed Rashford to flourish. It also allowed James to keep his wide right berth and challenge Vertonghen throughout the game.
You could tell from the start that Tottenham were uncomfortable in possession. From very early on, they were going extremely direct and trying to get in behind the United backline. Spurs’ opening which led to their goal came from Son’s direct running at our defence, something that they didn’t do enough of.
The final whistle went and it was a warm handshake from the two managers, but Ole patted Jose on the head as he turned towards the direction of the tunnel, something which could create a symbolic picture in years to come.