This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
When Jose Mourinho was sacked as Manchester United manager last December, very few could have predicted that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would still be in the Old Trafford dugout 12 months later. The Norwegian took over the reins from his predecessor initially on a caretaker basis, before earning the permanent rights to the job during the latter half of the campaign.
But after seeing his side fall away towards the end of the season – most notably with a draw and defeat to already-relegated Huddersfield and Cardiff respectively – Solskjaer has struggled to revive the Manchester giants. And after their 2-2 draw to Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, the Red Devils have amassed just 18 points from their opening 14 Premier League games – their fewest after this stage of the campaign since 1988/1989 when they ended up finishing in 11th.
So arguably the last thing Solskjaer needed in this period of misery, is for him to come up against the man he replaced. When Tottenham turn up to Old Trafford in mid-week, Mourinho will once again be patrolling the touch-line, but this time trying to mastermind a victory for the away side. All the pre-match talk and discussion will no doubt surround the Portuguese man’s return to Manchester, but in truth, the real spotlight will be on the United boss.
If Solskjaer sees his side get beaten by a team that had only installed Mourinho as their manager in the past few weeks, it would strike a hammer blow to his future at the club. The Athletic have reported that despite the availability of Mauricio Pochettino, the club are absolutely intent on backing their manager to the hilt. But just what kind of a hollow stance would that be if the man they previously employed waltzed away with all three points with virtually no time in the job?
It would be a damning indictment of the desperate lack of progress Solskjaer has made – indeed, it would only serve to reinforce the impression that the club are continuing to go backwards under his reign. After all, his win percentage since becoming the club’s permanent manager now stands at just 27.3%. To put that into context, Mourinho achieved 58.33%, and David Moyes – the man who was sacked after just ten months in the job – registered 52.94%.
So when the current United manager takes to the touch-line on Wednesday night, he faces a day of reckoning. A loss would simply be unthinkable given the incredible set of circumstances surrounding the game. The new boss losing to the old one. It’s not a script that is likely to go down well.
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