Solskjaer to earn his Spurs
A heavy home defeat to Spurs was the beginning of the end for Jose Mourinho as Man United manager. Could a positive result for United in the return fixture herald the start of something special for his short-term successor?
The acid test
As expected, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s approach to what he’s described as his ‘dream role’ has been faultless so far. His calm persona has helped settle a fractured group of players, while his appearances in the media have been refreshing and forthright.
But it’s his love of attacking football that he’s managed to transmit to his players on the pitch which has been the most impressive feature of his short reign so far. A style not seen since the days of Sir Alex has helped United reel off five successive wins (four in the league) and restore some pride. You could say he’s making the gig look easy.
Here comes his first real test though. Barring City or Liverpool, Spurs is as tough as it gets at the moment. Ever since taking over, the game has been earmarked as the one where Solskjaer’s managerial credentials need to come to the fore. Yet, while others are expecting this to be where the wheels fall off, I expect to see United continue motoring along under the club legend.
Spurs looking leggy
Spurs made a grand total zero additions to their squad in the summer and look unlikely to do so in the January window too. And still they're up at the top of the league playing neat, attractive football. No wonder, Pochettino is being touted as the man to take over on a permanent basis at Old Trafford.
While his approach to transfers and the use of a small pool of players has to be commended, there’s going to come a time in this campaign when the Argentinian will be powerless from seeing fatigue set in among his players and there were strong signs of this in the second half of their semi-final cup win over Chelsea in midweek.
Spurs may have edged the first half but they were second best after half time. The hosts grew tired the longer the game went on and were fortunate for Chelsea lacking a potent threat up top. Had they, then the scoreline would have been a different story and perhaps something close to the 1-3 defeat they suffered to Wolves in their last league game at Wembley. Spurs run out of steam then too.
United well rested and raring to go
While Spurs were toiling on Tuesday night, United’s players were enjoying a mid-season break in the warmer climes of Dubai. Sometimes, such breaks can have an adverse effect on a team but I anticipate it having only a positive impact on United. A weary Spurs up against a well-rested and reinvigorated United will be a defining factor in the visitors getting a result of some kind.
What’s more, you can expect United to be fresh where it matters most - in attack. Only Romelu Lukaku played the entire 90 minutes last week against Reading and with the Belgian set to drop back to the bench, the trio to get the nod from Rashford, Martial, Sanchez or Lingard, will be more than raring to go.
United are a different proposition under a new regime and, despite the step-up in opposition, I believe they’ll give a good enough account of themselves to warrant at least a draw, a result they’d take if offered before the game.
I foresee the issues surrounding fatigue hindering Tottenham, so much so that should they concede first, winning the game could be beyond them.
Nick’s tip: Backing United to defend a +0.5 AH (X or 2 for the bet to win) seems the natural way to go. It’s solid value too at 5/6 (1.86) with bet365.