Wednesday 27 March 2019

'He caught Pochettino out' - Gary Neville outlines how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United won at Wembley

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Gary Neville believes Manchester United's interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer passed the 'acid test' as his side beat Tottenham 1-0 at Wembley on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford's first half goal was enough to see Solskjaer collect his sixth straight win since taking over from Jose Mourinho at United, with Neville impressed by a tactical switch from his former team-mate that suggested he is adapting to his role at Old Trafford.

"In the first half, he caught Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham out. There's no doubt about that," Neville told sky Sports. "Manchester United went with a diamond and split strikers, which they haven't done all season so it's an adaptation.

"They've gone to Dubai this week not for a stag party or a bonding session but to work. They went to work. They went to work on fitness, but they also went to work on tactics. In that first-half Manchester United could have been one or two goals up. Tottenham had a couple of chances as well but Manchester United looked really threatening in the channels.

"It reminded me so much of the Liverpool game earlier in the season at Wembley when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane got in down the sides of the Tottenham centre-backs. It looked to me like Solskjaer had watched that game and thought that's where I can hurt them.

"It was clever. He proved in that first-half that he can live in a big game against a big manager and a big team.

"In the second half it was different. Spurs adapted, and they came into the game. However, in terms of the test, this acid test, he's absolutely passed this test with flying colours.

"You could see in the second half Manchester United were determined to hold on. They were determined to make sure they didn't concede a goal and they got there. It's such a huge win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and this group of Manchester United players. It feels like a million miles away from where this club was a month ago."

Gary Neville concerned Manchester United's squad may be stretched to breaking point in the final weeks of the season (Mike Egerton/PA)

Neville went on to suggest Solskjaer's win against the manager rumoured to be United's first choice to take over as manager next summer should not affect the final decision on that appointment, but he did suggest Pochettino faces challenges at Spurs after a second successive home defeat in the Premier League.

"Before the game, I said if Manchester United lost the game, the result should not determine the outcome of the next United manager," he added. "One thing I will say is because Manchester won, it shouldn't determine the outcome of the Manchester United manager.

"It shouldn't be like that. We shouldn't flip from week to week as to whether Solskjaer should be the Manchester United manager at the end of the season or not. It's something that I think will need to be looked at in April or May when there's been a body of work put in.

"I'll always remember that Liverpool game and after the match in that studio with Roy Keane, Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher, saying that it felt like the club was crawling on its hands and knees day-to-day, match-to-match and week-to-week. It felt like it was stuck and in the end, Jose Mourinho bore the brunt of that and was sacked.

"When the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was made the Manchester United fans responded straight away, as they always would do to a club legend. However, there is part of you in this position thinking is it a bit of an emotional appointment that's papering over the cracks. Is it a plaster over a wound that's too deep?

"It's now a month later and that performance against Tottenham is real. That's a proper performance Manchester United have put in and they've won it because of really clever tactical play in the first-half that damaged Spurs."

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