Spurs present Sol­sk­jaer with big­gest test yet

Business Day - - SPORTS DAY - Si­mon Evans Manch­ester

Manch­ester United in­terim man­ager Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer faces his big­gest task since tak­ing over from Jose Mour­inho when his team face the man some be­lieve could even­tu­ally re­place him — Tot­ten­ham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino.

Spurs, third in the Premier League stand­ings, host six­th­placed United, who trail them by 10 points, at Wem­b­ley on Sun­day in what is eas­ily the tough­est chal­lenge for which Sol­sk­jaer has had to pre­pare his team.

Since Mour­inho was sacked on De­cem­ber 18, Sol­sk­jaer, put in charge un­til the end of the sea­son, has led United to four straight league wins as well as an FA Cup third-round vic­tory over Read­ing. The fix­ture list was kind to the Nor­we­gian, how­ever, with United trav­el­ling to lowly Cardiff City and New­cas­tle United and host­ing bot­tom club Hud­der­s­field Town and out-of-form Bournemouth.

“Spurs away, Wem­b­ley, that’s a proper test,” Sol­sk­jaer said. “We’re look­ing for­ward to that one. That will give me more of a ref­er­ence for where we are against the top boys.”

As soon as Mour­inho was sacked, me­dia spec­u­la­tion be­gan to fo­cus on Po­chet­tino as the favourite to take over as per­ma­nent man­ager at the end of the sea­son.

While United have made no pub­lic state­ments of in­ter­est in the Ar­gen­tine, who has de­clined to com­ment on what he called “ru­mours”, there con­tin­ues to be sug­ges­tions that the 46-year-old is the club’s main tar­get.

Sol­sk­jaer has been un­able to con­ceal his ev­i­dent de­sire to get the job on a per­ma­nent ba­sis, how­ever, and it would boost his case sig­nif­i­cantly if he could lead United to vic­tory on Po­chet­tino ’ s home turf.

Spurs beat Mour­inho’s United 3-0 at Old Traf­ford in Au­gust and the Lon­don club have won each of their last three home games against United.

Premier League lead­ers Liver­pool travel to Brighton on Satur­day hop­ing to bounce back from their loss to sec­ond-placed Manch­ester City, which cut the Juer­gen Klopp side’s lead at the top of the ta­ble to four points.

Liver­pool have some in­jury wor­ries at the back, how­ever, with De­jan Lovren sus­tain­ing a ham­string in­jury in the FA Cup de­feat by Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers, putting him on the side­lines with cen­tral de­fend­ers Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

City are at home to Wolves on Mon­day after a busy week for Pep Guardi­ola’s side.

Fourth-placed Chelsea host New­cas­tle United on Satur­day, while at the bot­tom of the ta­ble there are two “six point­ers” with bot­tom club Hud­der­s­field at Cardiff and strug­gling Ful­ham at Burn­ley.

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer

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