Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur meet under very different circumstances from the first time they played in the fall. Back then, Jose Mourinho was an unhappy man with an unhappy team and they played with all the joy and splendor you would expect from a team under those circumstances. Tottenham rolled to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, and it wasn’t especially close.
But things are different now. The Special One is out and the Baby-Faced Assassin is in. United have now won five games on the spin under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and while he has been very open about wanting the United job permanently, Solskjaer actually commented on his competition for the job for the very first time — Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“[Pochettino has] done a very good job. That speculation is there for a reason because he’s done well. But then again, it’s not my job to rate different managers. My focus is on me and my team.”
No, no no, Ole! This isn’t how this works, you’re supposed to say why YOU are the right person for the job! Don’t you know how job interviews work? Stop bigging up Tottenham’s manager, jeez!
The media narrative now wonders whether Solskjaer might (gasp) actually win the job if they’re able to knock off Spurs at Wembley on Sunday, but it’s still with a nod and a wink, as though nobody really expects him to get the job done. Poch is still the main man. The irony for Spurs fans is that beating United will in some ways just amp up the narrative connecting Pochettino with a move to Old Trafford. Oh well.
For his part, Solskjaer seems like a perfectly decent human being and is genuinely thrilled to have taken the reins at the Theater of Dreams. He even said nice things about Harry Kane!
“He’s not bad, is he? He’s a fantastic goalscorer, one of the best in the world. Then again, I’ve got a couple that I’m happy to work with. Having players like him, a top professional, I’m sure whoever plays with him and trains with can talk more about him. But from the outside, he’s a fantastic finisher. He never misses chances really, so let’s hope he doesn’t get any against us.”
With a new manager and a new confidence in their ability to win matches by playing attractive football, it’s a little difficult to know what to expect from Manchester United. But we can at least rest comfortably in the knowledge that no matter what the scoreline the spotlight isn’t coming off of Pochettino anytime soon, no matter how good Solskjaer does in Mourinho’s chair.