Manchester United might have won all five of their opening matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjær since he took over, but their first real test comes this weekend at Wembley against an in-form Tottenham Hotspur side.
Mauricio Pochettino is coming off the back of an important first leg win against Chelsea at home in the Carabao Cup and knows full well how crucial it is to make his players handle the pressure of highly-pressurised games like these.
There can be no complaints under Solskjær’s reign so far, with the Red Devils returning to their attacking ways and playing some audacious football – something that has not been seen in several years.
The mood around the squad appears to be brighter and the players look like they are enjoying themselves on the pitch once again.
This fixture is going to be tense, it’s not one to miss. Here are Liam Canning’s selections for what will be the game of the weekend.
If there is one player from the Manchester United squad to have benefitted the most from José Mourinho’s dismissal, it has certainly been Paul Pogba.
The France midfielder has recorded some of his more impressive performances in recent weeks and will be looking to take that good momentum into this Sunday’s clash against Spurs.
In Pogba’s four Premier League games since being managed by the Norwegian, he has found the back of the net on four occasions and assisted three times. No player in the team has had an output or contribution quite as outstanding as Pogba’s and it’s easy to see why.
Solskjær is allowing the 25-year-old to express himself on the pitch. Pogba, in a loose and fluid system, is bombarding forward and making runs into the box, attempting to get on the end of crosses and prove a nuisance to opposition defenders.
So far, he has found rewards in doing so and his teammates will be hoping similar actions are taken against Spurs.
Pogba - who has shrugged off a knock to be fit for this match - is known for his stellar match-winning performances in big games, such as in last season’s Manchester derby and the World Cup final, in which he pulled the strings at the heart of their midfield and helped his country lift the prestigious trophy for the second time.
The Frenchman is 11/5 to find the back of the net with William Hill at any time, while Ladbrokes offer odds of 15/2 on Pogba to score first.
In Tottenham’s last four Premier League matches, there has been over 2.5 goals scored throughout.
While they might have slipped up and conceded too many for Pochettino’s liking against Wolves, most of those goals have come from Spurs themselves, pushing both Manchester City and Liverpool in the race for the Premier League this season.
Manchester United, likewise, have been in fine scoring form. In seven of their last eight league matches, they have scored over two goals in each, suggesting that there are goals in this game over the course of the 90 minutes.
This fixture is likely to be tense with a lot of pressure on both managers. Pochettino will not only be feeling anxious over how his team play, but also for the fact that, from a selfish point of view, he may want to impress Manchester United’s decision-makers in the way that he approaches the game.
👥 Mauricio Pochettino and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer go head-to-head this Sunday— Bookies UK (@bookies_uk) January 11, 2019
⚽️ It's been dubbed a 'play-off' for the #MUFC job
❤️ Poch is 15/8 favourite to be in charge at Old Trafford next season
📈 Ole is 5/4
🧐 Who's your money on?! #TOTMUN
The Argentine is still the favourite to be Man Utd boss by the first day of next season (15/8 Paddy Power).
Solskjær, on the other hand, wants to keep the job he’s in right now and the best of way making sure that happens is by winning matches like these.
Fireworks might not be set off from the first whistle, but once these two teams open up and start to build momentum, fans could be watching a fascinating encounter that could go either way.
This game is priced at 13/20 for there to be over 2.5 goals with BetVictor.
Manchester United have been in great form heading into their first real test, even if the overall performance against Reading in the FA Cup was not their most enthusiastic.
With Solskjær’s first-team players coming back into the side for Spurs, however, the Red Devils are likely to play in a more fluid manner that causes their defence problems throughout.
Pochettino has shown time after time at Tottenham what a fantastic manager he has been, maximising the potential of his squad with the limited amount of funds available to him throughout the transfer windows.
The Argentine is firmly in the Premier League hunt and will be focussed on keeping right alongside City and Liverpool, which means his team will have to turn up in a game that is going to be hanging in the balance.
While the last draw between these two clubs was back in 2013, at White Hart Lane, this match is so evenly poised that similar feats are likely to happen.
A share of the spoils for either manager is not a bad result, but it will be the performances that fans will take away from Wembley.
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