Spurs v Manchester United: Solskjaer's Biggest Dance

The time for Solskjaer to step out of Mourinho's shadow has come

On Friday evening, Tottenham Hotspur play host to one of the biggest matches of the season, not least for Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Whatever result we see, it could have a huge bearing on United's chances of a top four finish along with the future of Solskjaer.

Spurs have also had a season of struggle. The sacking of Mauricio Pochettino was seen by many fans as controversial and the form under new manager, Jose Mourinho, hasn't exactly been that impressive ever since.

Now, with both teams massively underachieving, they are scrapping amongst themselves along with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United for a place in Europe. The Red Devils, however, have the stronger chance of breaking into the top four with odds of 7/4 to achieve Champions League status once more.

The key battle that a close eye will be kept on will be whether the Norwegian manager can get one over his predecessor, Mourinho.

The two-time Champions League-winning manager left Old Trafford under a cloud in December 2018. Clear off-field issues with the likes of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial was just a small problem the former Chelsea boss created during a torrid second season at Old Trafford.

When Solskjaer joined from Molde, the legendary figure brought life and harmony back into the squad before poor form landed them outside the top four. Now, this may well be the United manager's biggest game yet for his future at the club.

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Solskjaer can cement his future amongst even the most reluctant fans

Solskjaer's first full season as boss has been very inconsistent thus far. Fans had to wait until December to achieve back-to-back league wins for the first time in the 2019/20 campaign after a poor start. Another frustrating point was slipping out of the top four places in September after losing 2-0 at West Ham, where all the finger turned to Solskajer and his capabilities as the United manager.

However, they have been knocking on the door since the winter period having stayed in the top seven places since the turn of the calendar year.

In January, there were question marks over the future of Paul Pogba. Agent, Mino Raiola seems keen to get him away from the club following the interest shown by top clubs including his former club, Juventus. Judging by his performances on the pitch, the French World Cup winner seems more interested in where the next selfie and dab is coming from rather than the next win.

Now, the upcoming run-in of fixtures could present an opportunity for Solskjaer. Failure to reach the top four could see both of them leave the club a second time.

Despite being in a state of recovery, questions have been asked of chief executive Ed Woodward's judgement in making the young manager's loan contract a permanent one last year. There have been moments when fans have expected the board to take action in relieving him of his duties, not least after performances in defeats against Newcastle in October and Burnley in January.

Premier League Betting Tips

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The Last Dance?

Something fans have been really wanting since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 is to have a manager that would be capable of being a mainstay in the hot seat for the long term. In the four managers that have been at the club since Ferguson's departure, Jose Mourinho has lasted the longest in being there for two and a half years. Despite still being in the job, Solskjaer has, without doubt, been teetering on the edge of the sack and so it feels like the search for a new manager is just a matter of time away.

One thing that could become Solskjaer's saving grace is a rather fortunate run in of fixtures. After the encounter with Tottenham, he faces tough competition against Sheffield United, the surprise package of the season, but it is after those next two matches that things seem to get a bit easier. The following six matches are all against opposition currently in the bottom half of the table including Brighton and Aston Villa, who are fighting a strenuous battle against the drop.

This run of games could well see the Red Devils enter the top four before the final day in late July at the expense of, what is likely to be, Chelsea. However, in order for them to get there, they have to quash the odds of 2/5 of them failing to reach that ultimate goal.

Who knows, Solskjaer's job security could well depend on his side going one better than last season's fifth place finish. Considering their noisy neighbours at the Etihad Stadium have been striving for dominance by splashing the cash and Liverpool realistically aiming for a record breaking Premier League points tally, United could now be entering a period of time where the once luxurious role of United manager might not pull the same weight it once did.

Should Solskjaer leave in the near future, there might not be better managerial talent that would want the job. Ed Woodward has a big decision to make whether to stick or twist. Whatever decision he takes, it will be a gamble.

By Rob Spereall


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