London: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s perfect start as Manchester United’s caretaker manager faces its stiffest test when the Norwegian goes head-to-head with reportedly United’s preferred target for the job on a full-time basis in Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino.
After a brief lull for FA Cup duties last weekend, Liverpool and Manchester City also renew their battle for the title, while at the other end of the table four of the bottom five meet in two relegation six-pointers.
United have swept aside more limited opposition in Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle in the league and Reading in the FA Cup since Solskjaer took charge to close the gap on the top four to six points.
However, they remain 10 points adrift of third-placed Spurs with Pochettino’s stock continuing to rise this season for keeping Tottenham in contention across four competitions despite working with a fraction of the resources on offer at Old Trafford.
Spurs moved another step closer to winning their first trophy under the Argentine by beating Chelsea 1-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.
But while Pochettino’s men have had to keep grinding after a gruelling festive period, United have had the luxury of a free week to head off to Dubai on a mid-season training camp.
Solskjaer has rejuvenated Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku and should the visitors strike a potentially decisive blow to Spurs’ title hopes on Sunday, the caretaker boss will do his chances of earning the job on a full-time basis no harm at all. A much-changed Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup, but that may ultimately help their case to end a 29-year wait to win the league.
Jurgen Klopp now has more time to prepare for a run of five winnable games before facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League that begins at Brighton on Saturday with Leicester, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Bourne-mouth to come.