The former has his nose in front, for now.
[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]
Billed as a clash between Solskjaer and Pochettino and who will be handed the chance to lead United long-term, an absorbing end-to-end clash took place at Wembley as United shaded a splendid encounter.
This was a statement win from United and Solskjaer which breathed new life into their season.
David De Gea made several wonderful saves to deny Spurs in the second half as the Red Devils sealed a fifth-straight Premier League win (it was the biggest so far by some margin) to kick off Solskjaer’s reign as caretaker boss.
After the game both Solskjaer and Pochettino, who were shown enjoying a warm embrace before the game, were asked about their supposed duel to be sat in the hot seat at Old Trafford for the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
“This game was never about me or him. You made it out to be, for us it is three points,” Solskjaer said. “We had to beat them today if we are going to have the chance to catch them. We were 10 points behind them, now we are seven. Seven points is catchable. 13 impossible. 10 difficult. Now, we have a chance.”
Pochettino was standoffish when asked about the rumored battle between himself and Solskjaer to take the United job.
Instead he focused on how much better Tottenham were than United throughout the 90 minutes and how De Gea was the difference between the teams.
“It is not ethical to talk about what he is doing or what I am doing. You can only talk about the game. Today, to talk about the game, of course we were better,” Pochettino said. “I think we dominated the game, we created more chances than them, and the second half we created 11 shots on target that produced 11 saves from the goalkeeper. It was a game and a battle between Tottenham and Manchester United. If not, we need to play him against me, one v. one, on the pitch. And then the next game against Fulham, Ranieri. The next game, Sarri. Come on, it is football.”
The fact that Solskjaer beat Pochettino to close the gap on Spurs and leave United just six points off the top four shows his ability to deliver big wins at key moments, and how that extends from his playing career to his managerial career.
He is getting the most out of this Man United squad and has them playing to their strengths. No doubt.
But the sample size is still too small to suggest he is by far the best long-term prospect to take charge of United.
Pochettino may well be the best man to lead them into a brave new world with youngsters at the core if United decide to make their move for him this summer and he decides he has taken Spurs as far as he can.
But back to the man of the moment, Solskjaer: United’s legendary forward admitted he isn’t thinking about taking over full-time when his caretaker role ends, even if he has mentioned it a few times over the last month since he took over from Jose Mourinho.
“I am just doing my job every single day here until the contract runs out, the end of June, I will have a holiday in there. I am not thinking about that whatsoever,” Solskjaer said.
But there’s no doubt the win at Spurs, and against Pochettino, has massively boosted his chances of getting the gig on a permanent basis.
“The win here was massive. The team spirit was massive. The belief and joy in the dressing room absolutely fantastic,” Solskjaer said. “Of course we have been away for a week working on certain things and when the boys see the benefits of that work, both fitness and maybe tactically. It is massive. Results like this, against big teams, they do give you confidence.”
Speaking to Sky Sports, De Gea summed up what Solskjaer has done to lift the gloom from the Mourinho era.
“The manager brought some happiness, the players are playing well and the team is very strong now. This is the real Manchester United.”