Tottenham would have had to look very hard for a silver lining in the clouds over Wembley as Manchester United inflicted a defeat that casts fresh doubt on their Premier League title credentials.

Spurs will not simply fade away after coming up against an insurmountable one-man barrier in the shape of United goalkeeper David de Gea – but this loss makes it even harder for them to keep pace with leaders Liverpool and Manchester City.

And yet, amid the dejection, the shaft of light might emerge from the afterglow of United’s win and the latest success in their remarkable resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Mauricio Pochettino was the name on everyone’s lips when Jose Mourinho paid his bill and checked out of The Lowry Hotel following his sacking by United in mid-December, the Argentine long linked with Old Trafford even before “The Special One” bit the dust after defeat at Liverpool.

  • Report: Tottenham 0-1 Manchester United
  • The best Spurs have played for me – Pochettino

Solskjaer was a surprise choice to keep the seat warm. It has given United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and his power brokers thinking time after an ill-judged decision-making process that had seen Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and initially the hapless David Moyes succeed Sir Alex Ferguson and United fall behind those they would naturally regard as their rivals.

The 45-year-old Norwegian was effectively taken on loan from Molde in his homeland with a previous record of Premier League failure when he led Cardiff City into the Championship. It was a decision to bring management temporarily back in house with their former striker, tap into United’s former values and revive a squad that seemed to be leading a life of abject misery under Mourinho.

There must still be serious reservations at this early stage about whether Solskjaer will be handed the reins long-term but wins like this, built on a positive tactical platform from a resurgent team before a truly exception display of goalkeeping from David de Gea, will strengthen his case.

And he went on to the Wembley turf at the final whistle to take the acclaim from thousands of United fans who chanted his name regularly and thunderously throughout a sixth successive win.

This was his most exacting examination so far. None his previous wins were anything other than expected, although nothing was certain given the shabby state United were in when Mourinho was sacked.

Solskjaer earned pass marks for positivity and a gameplan which utilised the pace and mobility of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial rather than the physicality of Romelu Lukaku.

The second half may have relied on De Gea but the foundations for victory were assembled by that pro-active outlook that saw Rashford give United a half-time advantage.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.