Ole and Mauri­cio man­age busi­ness

It’s not just United job on the line

Sport360 - - Premier League - By Matt Mon­aghan @mattmon­aghan360 ✉ mattmon­[email protected]

A con­se­quen­tial meet­ing, that en­com­passes both the present and fu­ture, awaits when Tot­ten­ham wel­come Manch­ester United.

Spurs supremo Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino will be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion when his suit­ors come to the cap­i­tal. This sin­gu­lar view­point, how­ever, does dis­ser­vice to both clubs.

Spurs are cling­ing on in the Premier League’s ti­tle race, plus come in af­ter a tense mid­week vic­tory against Chelsea saw them close on a place in the EFL Cup fi­nal.

For United, in­terim man­ager Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer has waltzed through his first five – wel­com­ing – fix­tures. Now, af­ter a train­ing camp in Dubai, comes the acid test.

Wood­ward’s head­scratcher

From the mo­ment that United ter­mi­nated Jose Mour­inho’s frac­tious two-and-a-half-year reign on De­cem­ber 18, one name loomed large.

Po­chet­tino was im­me­di­ately made favourite for a sum­mer move to rein­vig­o­rate English foot­ball’s fallen gi­ant. Com­mon con­sen­sus since has stated that if the ex-Ar­gentina cen­tre-back wants to make the move, then the job is open.

His abil­ity to coax elite foot­ballers out of the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Chris­tian Erik­sen has mer­ited at­ten­tion. Plus, in­spir­ing ti­tle bids on a shoe-string bud­get will im­press any board of di­rec­tors.

The best the iconic Sol­sk­jaer could do on his sec­ond­ment from Molde was to add lash­ings of en­ter­tain­ment and an in­jec­tion of club val­ues as 2018/19 fizzed out.

Five wins from five matches, with 16 goals scored and only three con­ceded, have, how­ever, seen mo­men­tum build be­hind the per­ma­nent hir­ing of the ‘Baby-Faced As­sas­sin’.

Win on Sun­day and this noise will reach fever pitch.

This puts United’s ex­ec­u­tive vicechair­man, Ed Wood­ward, in a bind.

A fourth de­feat in a row at Spurs – they went be­hind af­ter 11 sec­onds a year ago – would put his club’s hopes of mak­ing the Cham­pi­ons League back on life sup­port, but strength­ens a push for Po­chet­tino.

If this is the case, though, why would he es­chew a place at Eu­rope’s top ta­ble – and ush­er­ing in Spurs’ new sta­dium – by head­ing to Manch­ester? Are United re­ally a bet­ter bet for end­ing his per­sonal tro­phy drought?

Vic­tory for United could, if re­sults go their way, cut the gap to the top four to just three points. Af­ter Mour­inho’s un­for­giv­able re­treat at An­field, this deficit stood at 11.

Sol­sk­jaer has the United squad play­ing to its po­ten­tial and smil­ing again. Pass this first true ex­am­i­na­tion at Wem­b­ley and it be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to wave good­bye at sea­son’s end.

Wood­ward has much to pon­der.

Harry Kane v Vic­tor Lin­de­lof

The Premier League’s premier striker is set to meet one of the divi­sion’s most-im­proved cen­tre-backs.

Kane’s con­tro­ver­sial penalty in the 1-0 tri­umph against Chelsea ex­tended his scor­ing run to six matches, from which he’s notched seven times. Re­mark­ably for a preda­tor who cur­rently sits on 159 strikes in 242 Spurs matches, his header in Au­gust’s 3-0 win at Old Traf­ford was his first in nine at­tempts against United. Lin­de­lof will be the main bul­wark against him hit­ting the goal trail, once again.

Mem­o­ries of a sus­pect de­but sea­son have ebbed away af­ter a solid World Cup 2018 and promis­ing club sea­son. His aes­thetic style has added class to a sus­pect back­line.

Will this be enough against Kane?

Man­ager quotes

Po­chet­tino – “I was there when he scored [Sol­sk­jaer in the 1998/99 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal]. We meet at Wem­b­ley, but 20 years ago I was shout­ing for a goal he scored.

“You can­not be fo­cused on the (United job) ru­mours. Only to do our job in the best way.”

Sol­sk­jaer - “He [Po­chet­tino] has done a very good job ... that spec­u­la­tion [about the United job] is there for a rea­son be­cause he has done well but it’s not my job to rate man­agers, my fo­cus is on me and my team.

“You al­ways adapt to an op­po­nent, they are one of the best in the league so we have to be aware of their strengths but I have been brought up … we need to at­tack teams.”

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