Solskjaer beats Pochettino in public Man United job interview

1 Comment

LONDON — The boardroom was 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium. The interview: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer v. Mauricio Pochettino for the Manchester United job.

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.

The way he has rejuvenated Marcus Rashford as a central striker and Paul Pogba as a dominant no.10 are two of the biggest reasons for giving him the United job on a permanent basis right now.

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.”

FA Cup: Chelsea survive trip to Hull, advance to 5th round (video)

Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With their 2-1 victory away to EFL Championship side Hull City, Chelsea joined Leicester City, Sheffield United and Norwich City as Premier League sides to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

[ FA CUP ROUNDUP: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance ]

Frank Lampard‘s side got off to a flying start courtesy of Michy Batshuayi‘s deflected finish in the 6th minute, and the Blues were well on their way to a first half of total dominance.

Hull looked more prepared for a fight after halftime, but it mattered very little after Fikayo Tomori was gifted a free header two yards off the goal line. Ross Barkley‘s free kick was well placed at the back post and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Hull pulled the game back to 2-1 in the 78th minute, and they were more than a little fortunate in how they managed to do so. Kamil Grosicki smacked a free kick with plenty of power and got the deflection of all deflections to wrong-foot Willy Caballero and find the back of the net.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.

FA Cup: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay

Steven Paston/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur played to a virtual stand-still for nearly 60 minutes before Jose Mourinho’s side broke through with a moment of true quality from Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso, but finished right back where they started after Saints hit back late to force a replay in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Prior to that, Lo Celso put the ball in the back of the net and briefly thought it was he who had put Spurs ahead, but the Argentine was denied his third Spurs goal on the basis that the ball hit Son on its way through traffic, and the South Korean was in an offside position.

Spurs’ best chance of the first half chance came and went just minutes later, with Lucas Moura in disbelief and Angus Gunn the hero of the moment. Dele Alli played Lucas into open space inside the penalty area and, with the goal gaping to Gunn’s left and right, Lucas looked to place his right-footed shot inside the far post. Gunn was up to the challenge, though, and pulled off a sensational left-footed save from close range.

Seconds later, Saints had a surefire scoring chance and were denied in equally spectacular fashion. Danny Ings used his chest to control a free kick into the box and looped it goal-bound over the head of Hugo Lloris, only for Japhet Tanganga to make the last-second headed clearance in front of an open net.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

Saints were the first to go ever so close to a goal in the second half. Michael Obafemi crossed from the right side and found Ings inside the six-yard box, where he redirected the ball ever so slightly, but not enough, to send it inches wide of Lloris’ right-hand post.

Following a spell that was all Saints to start the second half, Spurs broke the deadlock through Son in the 58th minute. Lo Celso drove through the heart of Southampton’s midfield before playing the ball to Son near the top of the 18-yard box. He took a touch to set up the shot and fired a left-footed arrow inside the far post.

The lead lasted just shy of 30 minutes, close but not quite over the finish line. With 87 minutes on the clock and a full head of steam over the preceding quarter-hour, Southampton got their hugely deserved equalizer. Sofiane Boufal arrived near the top of the box as Ings’ cut-back ball arrived and the Moroccan international hammered it home.

The two sides will meet again for their fourth-round replay in two weeks at the Tottenham Hotspur. The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.