Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took Manchester United south to play Tottenham with his job on the line but lives to fight another day after his decisions paid off handsomely in a 3-0 win.
The pressure on the Norwegian was intense after last week’s 5-0 horror show against Liverpool, in which Jurgen Klopp’s men embarrassed their historic rivals.
United travelled to London for Saturday’s game after taking just one point from a possible 12 to fall well off the pace in the Premier League.
AFP looks at three talking points after the win against Spurs lifted United back within touching distance of the top four.
Veteran strike force
Solskjaer chose to pair Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani up front at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, selecting a strike force with a combined age of 70. It was the first time they had started together.
Young guns Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were sacrificed to make way for the veteran double act, potentially depriving United of thrust down the flanks.
But Ronaldo and Cavani both got on the scoresheet and proved a constant headache for the Spurs defence.
Solskjaer said it was the oldest team he had picked for United, adding he had decided it was time to bank on experience.
“The old men led from the front,” he told Sky Sports. “They play well together. They have loads of respect for each other. The work-rate and quality they put in is second to none.”
United’s defending at home against Liverpool was catastrophic, summed up by an incident in which Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw collided in the lead-up to Liverpool’s second goal.
Solskjaer chose to bring back France defender Raphael Varane against Spurs for his first game for the club since October 2, switching to a central back three, with Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka pushing forward.
“Raphael Varane is a top player,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “He reads the game well. He’s quick and so experienced. To get him back is massive for us.”
United looked calm and assured at the back and goalkeeper David de Gea did not have a single save to make as they recorded just their second clean sheet of the season in all competitions.
‘Man of the match’ McTominay
Ronaldo was named man of the match after he scored one goal and created another for Cavani but Solskjaer said Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay was his pick as the standout player.
McTominay and Fred were bypassed by Liverpool’s quicksilver attackers last week but established control in London as part of a midfield four and provided a platform for the men up front.
“Man of the match for me, by a mile,” said the United boss.
“That’s the Scott we have seen a few times before. He’s had his injury, he’s had his operation (on a groin injury) this season but today I thought he was absolutely brilliant.
“He won his tackles, drove forward, kept the ball simple, switched play, headed away a few set-plays. So, absolutely top.”