Why Solskjaer getting the Man United job makes sense

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Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now the favorite to land the Manchester United job on a permanent basis?

That is the question circling the soccer world Monday morning, as a huge 1-0 victory at Tottenham saw the Norwegian coach became the first-ever United manager to win their first six games on the trot. Of course, David De Gea‘s brilliance was the main reason United beat Spurs, but it was still a huge moment as Solskjaer’s made a huge statement in his biggest test yet as a manager.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ] 

Solskjaer’s caretaker tag will see him in charge of United at least until the end of the 2018-19 campaign, and because he’s technically on loan from Norwegian top-flight club Molde this is a bit complicated.

There’s no doubt the calls for him to get the job are growing after beating Mauricio Pochettino Spurs, even though it is way too early to evaluate how he can progress this United team long-term.

But it makes sense on many levels.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pochettino respond to United links ]

He is getting the best out of the players at his disposal. The fans adore him and that will buy him time to turn things around. His connection with the club as a former legendary striker instantly gains him respect and leverage behind-the-scenes at Old Trafford. His tactical ability, along with assistant coaches Mike Phelan and Michael Carrick, was tested at Spurs and his first half plan was magnificent.

When you think about it, hiring Solskjaer to a long-term deal at United does make a lot of sense. He isn’t a player who has just retired and been thrown in at the deep end. He has grafted with United’s reserve teams, then at Molde, then had a tough spell at Cardiff City to toughen him up and is back at Molde doing well in Norway before this incredible opportunity arose.

For United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward Ole would be a much cheaper option instead of paying Spurs compensation for Pochettino, and then paying the Argentine coach huge wages.

But United owe it to their fans, to their players and Solskjaer to take their time and wait until the end of the season.

If Solskjaer has United in the top four, progressing deep in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and the FA Cup, then he has to be the favorite to land this job.

United have tried everything since Sir Alex Ferguson left. The pragmatic approach in David Moyes. The two coaching behemoths of Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. None of them worked out.

Solskjaer is someone who has been handed a chance to impress and even though Pochettino should still be the leading candidate due to the way he transforms the entire philosophy of clubs on and off the pitch, the current man in charge of United has had the perfect start to life in the dugout at Old Trafford.

Sometimes the best solution is the simplest choice to make, and Solskjaer’s case as the best man for the job is growing week by week.

Solskjaer beats Pochettino in public Man United job interview

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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.”

Man Utd marvels at De Gea; Pogba praises Solskjaer plan

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David De Gea had to make so many saves against Tottenham Hotspur that the Manchester United star shot-stopper couldn’t pick a favorite.

Moreover, he couldn’t recall them all.

“I don’t even remember some of the saves so I can’t pick a best,” De Gea said. “The manager brought some happiness, the players are playing well and the team is very strong now. This is the real Manchester United.”

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

De Gea was speaking after United, still flawed, picked up a memorable 1-0 win over Spurs at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, inspiring interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to quip of winning with 11 saves that “You are allowed to have a good goalkeeper.”

Goal scorer Marcus Rashford couldn’t help but rave about De Gea, especially after the Spaniard bailed Rashford off the hook when Toby Alderweireld got free to turn a shot on goal from close range.

“It wasn’t about the goals today, it was about the keeper,” Rashford said. “The amount of saves he’s made is tremendous.”

Luke Shaw, on Twitter, clearly agrees.

Then there’s Paul Pogba, who set up Rashford for the goal with an outstanding diagonal ball that swept around the Spurs back line.

But while the confident Pogba admitted he made a sublime pass, he was one of the few offering credit beyond De Gea. The Frenchman loved the performance of… wait for it… his manager.

“Yeah it’s a great ball but we’ve been training on this,” Pogba said. “We knew that is the weakness of Tottenham when they attack one side, they really get high and you need to attack in the opposite side. That’s what we did and we scored a goal. We prepared on this. We knew we could hurt them in that context. … It was a big test. Tottenham need points. We needed points. Today really team performance was the key. We did it today and are really proud.”

And he says Solskjaer compares him to a player from the manager’s playing days.

“The manager tells me to get into the box and score goals,” Pogba said. “The best example is Frank Lampard.”

Solskjaer to discuss Man United transfers

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is eager to have a say in Manchester United’s transfer dealings during the January window.

[ MORE: Epic battle blows title race open ] 

United’s caretaker boss spoke to the media after winning four wins from four in the Premier League to begin his reign at Old Trafford, and the former United striker is keen to sit down with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to discuss deals this month.

“I am sure they have got plans for this transfer window,” Solskjaer said. “The club has probably had a plan since the summer and the year before. The structure of the club is phenomenal so I am sure they have got their targets. I am here to voice my opinion on that and I am sure we will sit down, me and Ed, if they have got anything in the pipeline.”

So, right now he doesn’t know what is going on, and given the way he has United playing right now they may not need many reinforcements. Solskjaer is certainly happy with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and others who have excelled by scoring 14 times in four games.

“I am here now to work with the ones that I have got,” Solskjaer added. “They have all performed and as long as they perform, they should always be given a chance. That is my job – to improve the team and individuals.”

Solskjaer’s men are in FA Cup action on Saturday as they host second-tier Reading, and the Norwegian confirmed that both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will start the game after coming on as subs after an injury and being given compassionate leave respectively.

United have a host of attacking options but one area where Solsksjaer should look to strengthen is in central defense. Victor Lindelof has picked up his form, but the likes of Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have been erratic at best for most of this season.

If Solskjaer is given a big say on who arrives in January, it may well point to him being under serious consideration to get the United job on a permanent basis when his caretaker role ends in May.

“The more you are here, the more you enjoy it. The day they announce the next manager, whether it is me or someone else, good luck,” Solskjaer said. “I don’t look at it that way. I don’t get distracted easily. I am very focused, I know what my job is. My job now is Reading [in the FA Cup third round] then we go to Dubai to prepare for Tottenham. It is not up to me to rate myself, that is up to someone else.”

Herrera says Solskjaer tactics free ‘magic’ Pogba

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Paul Pogba has come alive since Manchester United let Jose Mourinho and instituted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager, scoring four goals in four matches in a collection of spectacular performances.

Fellow Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has hinted that Pogba’s explosion under Solskjaer is due to the new boss’s tactics that specifically revolve around the Frenchman, with the other midfielders playing a supporting role.

“I think Nemanja Matic and me, and the other players, we have to help him to make him feel free and that’s what we’re doing,” Herrera said prior to Manchester United’s FA Cup match against Reading on Saturday. “When he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game, so we are really happy for him.”

That may not be intended as a thinly veiled shot at Mourinho, but it is easy to be digested as one. Mourinho was often criticized for shackling Pogba in his tactical layout, forcing the 25-year-old to stay home and defend, robbing him of his brilliance up front. Under Mourinho, Pogba appeared frustrated with his role and his off-the-field clashes with the Portuguese boss were made quite public. Now, it seems Pogba has been made the central figure in the attacking build-up, completing an enormous 300 of an attempted 352 passes in the four matches since Mourinho’s dismissal, good for an 85% pass completion rate.

Herrera then suggested that because he is happier on and off the field, Pogba is now much more willing to contribute defensively when needed, rather than it being his exclusive job under Mourinho.

“He is very important for the club – on the pitch and off the pitch as well,” Herrera said. “He’s playing really, really well. Not only with the ball. I think as soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team. He is playing very simple and effective in our half.”

The good form from Manchester United under Solskjaer – albeit against Newcastle, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, and Bournemouth – has seen the Red Devils jump to 38 points, just three back of fifth-placed Arsenal and six behind Chelsea in the final Champions League spot. Manchester United next visits Spurs in Premier League play before hosting Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley.