Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has emulated Sir Matt Busby in recording five consecutive victories to kick off his career as Manchester United but Sunday presents the biggest test yet.
United are in the capital to meet Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur on a continued quest to make up the remaining six-point gap on the top four.
Pochettino is the overwhelming favourite to take the reins at Old Trafford next summer and Sportsmail looks at the key questions ahead of the clash at Wembley.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten start at Manchester United will be tested by Tottenham
United’s first tough game under Solskjaer – how will they cope?
This really is the acid test of how far United have actually come in the short time Solskjaer has enjoyed with them.
There must be a degree of pragmatism as to how they approach the game, which will offer some indication of how the manager intends to attack the bigger occasions from now until the end of the season.
But the improved atmosphere around the camp – as evidenced by the countless smiling picture galleries in Dubai this week – should stand them in better stead to leave Wembley with a result.
United were clearly relishing an improved atmosphere at their Dubai training camp
The mood should help Solskjaer’s team have a better chance of a result against Tottenham
United looked beaten before they began in Jose Mourinho’s final match in charge, the 3-1 defeat by Liverpool, and Solskjaer will encourage the team to go out and impose themselves on a fixture they are still not expected to win.
Solskjaer spends around 80 per cent of his sessions focused on attacking, with the remainder looking at the opposition and, while wary of Tottenham’s obvious threats, will not have changed that this week.
‘Every single day and every single game we will get more understanding about how we want to play,’ he said. ‘There are always things to work on – the relationship between players, the cohesion.’
Rashford or Lukaku?
It is very difficult to make a case for leaving Marcus Rashford out. He has three goals in four Premier League games under Solskjaer, but his presence leading the line is just as important.
Rashford had to contend with the physicality of Jamaal Lascalles away at Newcastle last week, sticking to his task and pulling both centre halves all over the place. His free-kick was key to Romelu Lukaku’s opener and Rashford went on to score a second.
The 21-year-old looks liberated and has Solskjaer made sure to spend one-on-one time with the striker, drumming in quite what an impact he can have on this team.
Marcus Rashford (left) looks liberated under Solskjaer but Romelu Lukaku is in good form too
The Norwegian does, for the moment at least, see him as a central striker – although he has operated out wide later on in games.
Lukaku has netted in his last three since returning to United from compassionate leave but the agility of Rashford should give him the edge – unless Solskjaer opts for both for the first time.
Is this another audition for Mauricio Pochettino?
The last two-and-a-half seasons have been the ultimate audition for Pochettino, who was sounded out for the job of succeeding Louis van Gaal in 2016.
Ed Woodward has watched the evolvement of Tottenham with interest, and paid particular attention to the Argentine’s development of younger players.
In many ways, Pochettino is the perfect fit for United.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is favourite to become United boss next summer
The stick to beat him with is a lack of silverware but that he has realigned Tottenham’s standing among the elite is the best result he could have produced without significant funds to strengthen. You have to wonder what Pochettino could achieve with a bit of money.
The game is not exactly ideal for anyone involved. Solskjaer, who wants the job himself despite Molde’s insistence this is merely an arrangement until May, has already answered questions on Pochettino.
The Spurs boss will face similar in his own press conference before and after. They will want to get it out of the way.
Can Harry Kane get the better of United defence?
‘He’s not bad, is he?’ Solskjaer grinned. ‘He’s a fantastic goalscorer, one of the best in the world, but then again I’ve got a couple I’m happy to work with.’
United’s emphasis is on what they can offer but it’d be naive to not pay proper attention to someone who has scored 20 goals already this season – and seven in his last six outings.
Marcos Rojo remains sidelined and has gone back to Argentina, while the trip to London probably comes too soon for Chris Smalling, who returned to training in Dubai this week.
United’s threadbare defence needs to keep Tottenham striker Harry Kane at bay
It means Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof are set to be paired together again, with Eric Bailly serving the final game of his suspension for the straight red card against Bournemouth.
Lindelof continues to improve, while Jones’ performances are generally overshadowed by the odd mistake.
Nemanja Matic will have a big role to play in acting as another barrier and his partners in midfield will need to cut off the supply to Kane at source.
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