Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s start as Manchester United’s caretaker manager could scarcely have gone better.
In a remarkably short space of time, the Norwegian has cleared away much of the negative mist left by his curmudgeonly predecessor Jose Mourinho, and made the first steps towards restoring some of United’s traditional attacking values.
The improvement in individual performances has been borderline miraculous, with players like Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, blossoming with new artistic licence and freedom to create.
Released from the weight of Mourinho’s repressive tactical instruction and belittling man-management, United battered their way to 5 wins from 5 under Solskjaer, scoring an impressive 16 goals in the process.
The immediate impact made by Solskjaer and United’s subsequent positive swing in results has been startling – in fact, the new manager effect has rarely been this potent before.
After United’s 2-0 against Reading, Solskjaer became the first manager in English football since 1888 to win his first 5 games by at least a 2-goal margin.
Solskjaer’s Biggest Test
On Sunday, there is a huge chance that Solskjaer’s ebullient United will reach their first impasse at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur.
Even though United’s performances have sparkled in attack, the Norwegian is still searching for a way to stem the flow of chances conceded at the other end.
And while the opponents United faced under Solskjaer so far lacked the quality and clinical edge to make the most of the chances presented to them, Spurs are a different, more ruthless animal.
Yet, a defeat at Wembley shouldn’t be seen as proof of a false dawn – better teams than Solskjaer’s United have been turned over by Mauricio Pochettino’s slick outfit.
Sunday does however, offer the chance for Solskjaer to flex his tactical acumen against one of the Premier League’s best.
Is the Norwegian canny enough to park a little of his romanticism for a week in order to play a little less expansively against one of the division’s most lethal attacking teams?
Check out our selection of betting tips and predictions for Sunday’s game in our Tottenham Hotspur vs Man Utd match preview here.
Fixtures after Wembley
Following United’s test against Spurs on Sunday, Solskjaer must prepare his players for successive Premier League home games against Brighton and Burnley.
A FA Cup 4th Round clash at Arsenal interrupts United’s league campaign, before it resumes with away fixtures at Leicester and Fulham.
It’s a league schedule that looks more than a little on the kind side and it feels like a quartet of games that a reenergised United squad will expect to win.
Over at bet365, there is a fantastic special offer running at present that allows customers to predict and back the total number of points they think United will accrue from their next 5 Premier League fixtures. (Spurs A, Brighton H, Burnley H, Leicester A, Fulham A)
Customers can choose from a number of points ranges at different odds, including:
0-4 points 25/1
5-8 points 9/4
9-11 points 6/5
12-13 points 3/1
15 points 15/1
Check out how we think United are likely to fare over their next 5 league matches below:
Man Utd next 5 Premier League predictions
Tottenham (A) – Taking on Spurs at Wembley will undoubtedly be Solskjaer’s biggest test as caretaker Manchester United manager so far. United have improved immeasurably in attack under the Norwegian, though the team still have considerable problems in defence. With that considered, we think Spurs will bring United back down to earth with a bump this weekend.
Brighton (H) – United will want to bounce back quickly after their first defeat under Solskjaer, and a game against Brighton at Old Trafford will give them a great opportunity to do just that. The Seagulls are one of the league’s most dogged sides however, and heavy defeats for Chris Hughton’s men are rare. Nevertheless, we expect United to just about edge them out.
Burnley (H) – After a couple of tough fixtures, United’s free-flowing football should return against the Clarets on January 29th in Manchester. In stark contrast to last season, Burnley’s once rock solid defence has mutated into one of the Premier League’s worst. If they can break the deadlock relatively early, United should be able to plunder a few goals against Sean Dyche’s strugglers.
Leicester City (A) – Premier League wins against Chelsea and Manchester City in December showed that Leicester City are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the Premier League’s biggest and best. The Foxes have more than enough talent to bloody United’s nose, though we expect the visitors to grind out a draw at the King Power Stadium.
Fulham (A) – Having battered Fulham 4-1 in early December, United will be confident that they can sweep the Cottagers aside again when they meet next month in London. Fulham have scored just 9 goals in 10 games since Ranieri’s appointment, and a third of those were scored in the Italian manager’s first game in charge against Southampton. We think Fulham lack the firepower to cause an upset.
Points Total: 10
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