Ask Ole Gunnar Solskjaer if Sunday’s match at Wembley is effectively an audition for the role of Manchester United’s next permanent manager, and he will try to steer your focus in another direction.
To the outside observer, a meeting between Solskjaer and Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino may offer a significant clue as to who will be in charge at Old Trafford next season. The Norwegian is doing all he can not to look at it that way.
“No. It’s not about me at all,” Solskjaer said. “It should always be about the players, because it’s not about me. It’s not about him.
“We don’t kick a ball at all. They kick a ball. Of course, we might make a decision here or there, but it’s down to the players to perform and I’m sure my boys are ready.”
In the three-and-a-half weeks since returning to United, on loan, to replace the sacked Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer has done everything asked of him. Five matches have brought five victories, the team are playing more attractive football, and look both fitter and happier.
Solskjaer, whose 126 goals in 11 years for United include arguably the most memorable Champions League winner of all time, has made no secret of the fact that he would love to manage the club beyond the summer, when his loan arrangement ends.
Pochettino is widely considered the favourite to get the job full-time, and Solskjaer said at a press conference on Thursday evening that “the speculation is there for a reason”, acknowledging the fine job that the Argentinian has done since joining Tottenham in 2014.
In order to strengthen his own chances of managing United next season, Solskjaer has focused on two priorities: improving the players’ fitness levels and on building connections with his squad.