Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates at the end of the match at Wembley Stadium, London, Britain, January 13 2019. Picture: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH
Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates at the end of the match at Wembley Stadium, London, Britain, January 13 2019. Picture: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH

London — Manchester United’s victory against Tottenham Hotspur is a statement win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the team’s reliance on David de Gea’s heroics in goal show the interim boss still has work to do.

Solskjaer had won all five of his games as interim United boss before Sunday’s Premier League match, seen as his first major test. The Norwegian got his tactics spot on in the first half of a match billed as a face-off between the two favourites for the full-time job at Old Trafford, with Mauricio Pochettino in the opposition dugout.

Spurs dominated possession in the opening minutes but United’s fleet-footed trio of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard looked to counterattack at every opportunity.

The approach paid off just before half-time when Paul Pogba delivered a raking crossfield ball for Rashford to run on to and the England man drove the ball past Hugo Lloris. But the second half was a different story as Spurs came forward in relentless waves, only to find De Gea in unbeatable form.

Former United defender Gary Neville hailed the impact his former teammate Solskjaer has had since he replaced Jose Mourinho in December.

“Ole is picking the profile of players Manchester United need and that’s players who have the energy to get from box to box quickly and counter-attack with quality,” the Sky pundit said.

“You’ve seen that in the last few weeks. At Wembley, it was the acid test. It was the moment where people said could he live in a big game and could he live against the big managers. Second half I thought it was about spirit, desire and hanging on a little bit. The players were playing for the manager.”

The hard-fought victory boosts Solskjaer’s chances of staying at Old Trafford beyond the end of this season.

The Norwegian has done little wrong since he took over an unhappy club from Mourinho, reinvigorating Pogba and Rashford and tightening a leaky defence. The clean sheet against Spurs was just United’s fourth of the Premier League campaign.

Solskjaer hailed De Gea as “the best goalkeeper in the world” after the Spaniard’s 11 saves and praised his defence but he acknowledged it was tough going after the break.

“Second half, we made hard work of it,” he said. “May be because of ourselves they created many chances, but first half I thought it was spot on.”

AFP