‘OH, my. Tottenham Hotspur have arrived. There is no bigger stage, no better place than Wembley, to play a game of football as seductive, as irresistible, as this’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun, November 2, 2017.
‘Poch has arrived on the big stage, masterminding a sensational Wembley win’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun, February 14, 2019.
Nice of their manager to finally join them.
Of course, the biggest story out of Tottenham’s win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley was how it will affect Manchester United.
The Manchester Evening News suggest that Mauricio Pochettino and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have left United with ‘an impossible decision to make’.
The Tottenham manager ‘certainly reminded’ United ‘what they might be missing out on’ against Dortmund, although Tyrone Marshall adds that Solskjaer’s side had ‘the more difficult’ task.
Tottenham faced Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund at home. Manchester United faced Ligue Un leaders Paris Saint-Germain at home. Tottenham were without two of their best players. Manchester United were without Matteo Darmian. Tottenham played a Dortmund side who were without Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer and a handful of other players. Manchester United played a PSG side who were without Neymar, Edinson Cavani and a handful of other players.
Remind us again why United’s game was ‘more difficult’? Or, at least, why it was notably so?
Ah, because ‘Pochettino knew what players were available to him pre-match and didn’t have any further problems on that front to deal with during the game’. We all saw Jan Vertonghen channelling Roberto Carlos, Juan Foyth being excellent in only his second ever Champions League game and Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko dominating in midfield, you see. Easy decision to make, those.
And one might suggest that how Solskjaer dealt with injuries to Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard ‘during the game’ against PSG contributed to a quite eye-opening defeat as much as the injuries themselves. So it really is an ‘impossible decision’.
‘One 15-minute team talk won’t suddenly convince United chiefs to turn to Pochettino this summer,’ the article continues, ‘but in the way he turned the game around he suddenly showed them what he is capable of as a manager.’
If winning one game ‘suddenly showed’ United ‘what he is capable of as a manager’, wait until they find out he finished in the top three for three successive seasons while spending basically no money and having basically no stadium.
But at least Pochettino ‘remains a seriously impressive candidate himself’. Less than three weeks ago, the very same website said that ‘it is starting to feel it is not the winning that counts but the taking part with Pochettino’.
‘United are facing the choice between a masterful man-manager with tactical acumen who is readying his players for a championship challenge next season and another who is focusing on Champions League qualification,’ Samuel Luckhurst wrote on January 29, insisting that United ‘have a winner’ in Solskjaer compared to the ‘cryptic’, ‘flirting’ Pochettino.
‘Manchester United chief Ed Woodward should end his search for the next manager,’ read the headline to that piece, with Solskjaer the anointed one. Now the club have ‘an impossible decision to make’ because some fella ‘who is focusing on Champions League qualification’ managed to win his game.
Weird that ‘masterful man-manager’ Solskjaer’s ‘tactical acumen’ was exposed on Tuesday. And is it still ‘the taking part’ that seems to count with Pochettino?
As an aside, the Manchester Evening News have established a popular headline trope ever since the former’s interim appointment. It has led to such seminal stories as:
‘How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is echoing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United’
‘How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has channeled Sir Alex Ferguson to change the mood at Manchester United’
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought a vital Sir Alex Ferguson attribute back to Manchester United’
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer produced Sir Alex Ferguson moment to take pressure off Ed Woodward at Manchester United’
‘Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes Sir Alex Ferguson rule change’
‘Manchester United star reveals similarities between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Alex Ferguson’
Solskjaer was the second coming, basically. But Mediawatch has some terrible news: the MEN have not put ‘Solskjaer’ and ‘Ferguson’ in the same headline since February 11, with United losing to PSG on February 12.
Have they already fallen out with him?
‘German teams do not lose 3-0 in European knockout games, not the Bundesliga leaders, anyway’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.
Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich, May 6 2015. And hell, it wasn’t a knockout game but Marseille certainly helped knock Dortmund out in the 2011 group stages by beating them 3-0. Andre bloody Ayew scored twice.
John Cross was also at Wembley, and left impressed with Tottenham’s ‘fearless spirit’.
‘You write this team off at your peril,’ he writes in the Daily Mirror.
Indeed. If only you hadn’t said they were ‘running into problems’ on January 13, and that they ‘have fallen away in the title race’ when they were just two points behind Manchester City.
Two questions: Is Mauricio Pochettino’s ‘halo’ still ‘well and truly slipping’? And are they still going ‘backwards’ by ‘standing still’? It really doesn’t feel like it.
Cross adds that Tottenham are in a position of great strength ‘from what looked like a crisis a few weeks ago as they crashed out of both domestic cups’.
At what stage, when winning ten of 12 Premier League games since December 2 and drawing away at Barcelona to advance to the Champions League knockout stages, did losing in the two least important competitions of four represent anything approaching a ‘crisis’?
And would rather foolishly suggesting they were in or close to one be writing them off at your peril?
Writes Neil Ashton in The Sun:
‘Son was exceptional, attracting the attention of some clumsy challenges from Dortmund’s vexed defence.
‘They could not handle him.
‘Rent-a-quote Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney was booked for clattering into him minutes after the opener.’
‘Rent-a-quote’ is wonderful. Don’t like being called out, do you?
David McDonnell says that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘knows his future as Manchester United boss will not be decided by their Champions League fate’.
The Daily Mirror‘s man adds that Solskjaer ‘knows how United fare in their quest for a top-four spot and in the FA Cup will determine whether he gets the job permanently’.
How United do in the FA Cup will be more important for Solskjaer’s job prospects than the Champions League? How convenient that he only recently f***ed it in the Champions League, then.