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Beating Spurs & Jose with weaker Man Utd XI: What else can Ole do?

COMMENT: A better frame of mind. A stronger team. Everything was with Jose Mourinho going into Wednesday night's Old Trafford return. The momentum, clearly, was with Tottenham, yet...

Player-for-player. On paper. Even on the pitch since Mourinho has grabbed a hold of 'em. Spurs are a better team than Manchester United. You can't argue against that. And as mentioned, after three wins on the bounce, in contrast to United's ever stumbling form, all the momentum was with the visitors. This could be carnage, some were predicting...

Yet by his own admission, Mourinho's players couldn't live with his old team - at least not for that opening half-hour. With Mason Greenwood - at 18 - leading the line on his full Premier League debut, Marcus Rashford was inspired. The forgotten England man the best player on the pitch working off the left-side of his young teammate. Two goals, hitting the crossbar and forcing Paulo Gazzaniga into at least three more impressive saves, Rashford was irresistible. If Harry Kane is worth £200m, as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is telling intermediaries, what price United's No10 on this performance?

"For 30 minutes, they were not just better than us they were much better than us," conceded Mourinho in the post-match.

"They were better in the intensity, in the aggression, they were winning first balls, second balls, 50-50 duels, but we were lucky and then in the last 15 minutes of the first-half we were us and United was in trouble."

And Jose was right, Spurs had managed to wrest back control of the game before the break. A show of genius from Dele Alli levelling the scores. It was the stuff of Dennis Bergkamp and St James' Park. Perhaps even better. And at halftime, just as before kickoff, momentum was with the visitors.

Yet, just as he'd managed in pre-match, the man who'd replaced Mourinho almost a year ago found a way to get his United players back on the rails and motivated for a blood n' thunder start to the second-half.

And that approach was rewarded, with Rashford winning and converting a penalty within five minutes of the restart - which eventually would prove the winner.

So what about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? Was this all a fluke? Was it all just a result of good fortune? Of course not.

It was the United manager who rejigged his system to create that pocket of space for Rashford to thrive in. It was Solskjaer who chose to create that position with the show of faith in teenager Greenwood. And it was he who sent out his players, at the beginning of both halves, inspired and determined to take the game to a superior and more confident opposition.

Good tactical acumen. Trust in youth. And capable of inspiring and improving those players he's inherited. The best of Solskjaer was on display. And it was triumph achieved against a better and more confident opposition. What else can the Norwegian do?

He can't do much more with Rashford than he is today. Indeed for Solskjaer, Wednesday night was the best he's seen from the forward. But Rashford isn't alone. Fred is now looking a Premier League player. Scott McTominay, back after an injury lay-off, won praise from both managers. And no-one can argue against the progress Daniel James makes week after week.

But for some, it still isn't enough.

On the day of the game, the local newspaper fired a warning at Solskjaer: he wants your job. A big exclusive run by the Manchester Evening News that Mauricio Pochettino, now free of his deteriorating situation at Spurs, was coveting the United post. To be fair, no-one at the MEN are actively lobbying for Solskjaer's removal, but there are others who are - and will continue do so as long as the Argentine is available.

For Solskjaer, he insists it's part of the territory. Going into the game, the manager scoffing at claims he'd told his players he'd be sacked next week if they were beaten by Spurs and Saturday's opponents Manchester City.

"At least I know the sources everyone is talking about aren't sources, they are just made up, blatant lies," he shrugged on Tuesday. And it was a ridiculous story, Solskjaer would never allow himself to put such a responsibility on a young dressing room. Such actions are just not part of his make-up.

And he deserves better - as victory over Spurs showed. Momentum, superiority and Jose. It was all with Spurs on Wednesday night, yet Solskjaer found a way to beat them.

He is worthy of this Manchester United job.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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