A consequential meeting, that encompasses both the present and future, awaits when Tottenham welcome Manchester United on Sunday.
Spurs supremo Mauricio Pochettino is guaranteed to be the centre of attention when his, strongly rumoured, suitors come to the capital. This singular viewpoint, however, does disservice to both clubs.
Spurs are clinging on in the Premier League’s title race, plus come in after a tense midweek victory against Chelsea saw them close on a place in the EFL Cup’s final.
For United, interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has waltzed through his first five, welcoming, fixtures. Now, after a training camp in Dubai, comes the acid test.
Here is Sport360’s preview ahead of the match at Wembley:
WOODWARD’S WEMBLEY HEADSCRATCHER
From the moment that United terminated Jose Mourinho’s fractious two-and-a-half-year reign on December 18, one name loomed large.
Pochettino was immediately made favourite for a, lavishly expensive, summer move to reinvigorate English football’s fallen giant. Common consensus since has stated that if – and it currently remains unknown – the coveted ex-Argentina centre-back wants to make the move, then the job is open to him after five supreme seasons in north London.
His ability to coax elite footballers out of the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen has merited attention. Plus, inspiring title bids on a shoe-string budget will impress any money conscious board of directors.
The best that the iconic Solskjaer could do on his secondment from Molde was to add lashings of entertainment and a reinjection of club values as a pained 2018/19 fizzed out.
Five wins from five matches, with 16 goals scored and only three conceded, have, however, seen momentum build behind the permanent hiring of the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’.
Win on Sunday and this noise will reach fever pitch.
This puts United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, in a predicament.
A fourth defeat in a row at Spurs – they went behind after 11 seconds a year ago – would put his club’s hopes of making the Champions League back on life support, but, supposedly, strengthens a push for Pochettino.
If this the case, though, why would he eschew a place at Europe’s top table – plus welcoming in Spurs’ grand new stadium – and head up to Manchester?
Are United really a better bet for ending his personal trophy drought?
Victory for United could, if results go their way, cut the gap to the top four to just three points. After Mourinho’s unforgivable retreat at Anfield, this deficit stood at 11.
Solskjaer has the United squad playing to its potential and smiling again. Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera are just three beneficiaries of his methods.
Pass this first true examination at Wembley and it becomes increasingly difficult to wave goodbye at season’s end.
Woodward has much to ponder.
HARRY KANE V VICTOR LINDELOF
The Premier League’s premier striker is set to meet one of the division’s most-improved centre-backs.
Kane’s controversial penalty in the 1-0 triumph against Chelsea extended his scoring run to six matches, from which he’s notched seven times. Remarkably for a predator who currently sits on 159 strikes in 242 Spurs matches, his header in August’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford was his first in nine attempts against United.
Lindelof will be the main bulwark against him hitting the goal trail, once again.
Memories of a suspect debut season have ebbed away after a solid World Cup 2018 and promising club season. His aesthetic style has added class to a suspect backline.
However, will this be enough against Kane? Using United’s average-per-game player statistics in the top flight for 2018/19, Lindelof is only joint-seventh for tackles made (1.5), joint-eighth for interceptions (0.9) and joint-seventh for fouls made (0.8).
Pochettino – :I was there when he scored [Solskjaer in the 1998/99 Champions League final]. I was there with Toni Jimenez watching a fantastic game and how I shouted for a Manchester United goal was incredible.
“On Sunday we meet at Wembley, but 20 years ago I was shouting for a goal he scored.
“You cannot be focused on the rumours. Only to do our job in the best way.
“Manchester United will try to win. The motivation is going to be there.”
Solskjaer – “He [Pochettino] has done a very good job, he is one of the … he is … that speculation [about the United job] is there for a reason because he has done well but it’s not my job to rate managers, my focus is on me and my team.
“You always adapt to any opponent, they are one of the best in the league so we have to be aware of their strengths but I have been brought up … we need to attack teams.”
United are on the crest of a wave and Spurs should be in great spirits after their mid-week semi-final, first-leg triumph.
There were signs of a slowdown, however, from the latter against Chelsea, who dominated the efforts count 17-6 and possession 58 per cent-42 per cent. The continued absences of anchormen Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, also, doesn’t help.
A refreshed United after their Dubai training camp should have enough to earn a valuable draw.
Tottenham 1-1 Manchester United