London, United Kingdom | AFP | Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a golden opportunity to further his credentials for the permanent manager’s job at Manchester United when he goes head to head against Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino on Sunday.
The Norwegian interim manager has enjoyed a perfect start to his Old Trafford career, winning all five matches and transforming the mood among players and fans.
But in the opposite dugout at Wembley will be Pochettino, who remains the favourite to be named to the United hot seat after keeping Spurs on the fringes of the Premier League title race against considerable odds.
United have beaten Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Newcastle in the league and Reading in the FA Cup since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho last month.
But third-placed Tottenham in London will be a different proposition and the match will be a severe examination of how far United have come under their temporary leader.
Solskjaer has revitalised a number of players including Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, but bristles at suggestions he has had an easy ride so far.
“We’ve had tests,” he said. “Newcastle away is a test and the first game was a test as to how everyone reacted. The first home game with the crowd is a test.”
“We are not going to get as many chances to attack against these as we had before so when we have the ball we have to be ready to play well with it and we have to use the whole pitch because Wembley is a decent size pitch as well,” he added.
Solskjaer says he has not spoken to the club hierarchy about the full-time position although has clearly stated his desire to stay beyond the end of the season.
The minimum requirement for Solskjaer is probably to qualify for next season’s Champions League — United have closed the gap significantly but are still six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
But the former striker, who has United fans’ undying loyalty after his exploits as a player, must see off the threat from Pochettino if he is to prolong his stay at Old Trafford.