Has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved he has the tactical nous to be Man Utd’s next permanent manager?
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came through the match billed as his first serious test with flying colours and three points last weekend.
Solskjaer and his side recorded a 0-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Sunday afternoon in a game that will go some way to answering the key question that has been hanging over the Norwegian coach.
His impact in rejuvenating the players and his United credentials were not in any doubt, but some pundits have been questioning whether he has the tactical nous to take the job on a permanent basis.
The Spurs game suggested that he does. His plan of leaving Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial high up the pitch to take advantage of the space left behind by Mauricio Pochettino’s marauding full-backs ultimately won the match for United.
Was it Solskjaer’s plan or that of his no.2 Mike Phelan? That doesn’t really matter as long as the coaching staff are reaching the right tactics together. Certainly Sir Alex Ferguson was not afraid to take tactical guidance from Phelan or any of his other assistants.
Indeed, we’ve written elsewhere about how United’s win over Spurs had Ferguson’s fingerprints all over it. Choosing the personal and tactics to negate strong opponents was part and parcel of that.
It’s still early days, of course, but United fans can take considerable heart from events at Wembley.
Solskjaer now has just under a month to maintain momentum and further impose himself on the squad before the four weeks that will make or break his tenure. That starts with the Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain, followed by the Premier League game against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
After games against Crystal Palace and Southampton, United play the return game at PSG, Arsenal away and Manchester City at home.
That run of fixtures will really test Solskjaer’s mettle. If he conjures up the tactics and squad management to succeed between mid-February and mid-March, he is likely to be in the dugout next season.