How many games does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have to save his job from? One might expect, after Manchester United totally demolished Tottenham 3-0 in north London on Saturday night.
A team that at times against Liverpool last weekend looked like a group of competition winners certainly landed the jackpot at the Tottenham Stadium.
Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford justified Solskjaer’s decision to “put a few more experienced players in there” after the heartbreaking scenes at Old Trafford last time around.
Indeed, it was a smart, thoughtful and clinical display that earned United three earned runs. It couldn’t have been more different from the way United fared against Liverpool.
And that probably saved Solskjaer for the time being.
The next step for the Premier League boss? The Manchester derby, with United just three points behind City after losing to Crystal Palace.
Here, I takes a look at five notable triumph performances in the capital …
Edinson Cavani 8/10
Solskjaer has spoken of the need to bring more experience back to the squad after the humiliation at Old Trafford last weekend – and it was the perfect stage for Cavani to thrive.
The Uruguayan has had a choppy start to the season at United thanks in large part to the arrival of Ronaldo who muddied the line-up for Solskjaer’s forward line. Saturday was the couple’s first time together and they quickly got into their rhythm.
The move to three center-backs meant the boss could afford to go with two veteran forwards up front – and it worked. Once the game opened, it was Ronald who fed Cavani for the second goal. Indeed, Cavani has been tireless throughout and could have scored earlier in the competition. His presence was exactly what United needed.
Cristiano Ronaldo 8/10
Class is permanent and no matter how many columns and web pages have been written about United’s issues with and without Ronaldo, there’s no denying that the Portuguese are their most valuable player.
Ronaldo had a fairly stable afternoon when his Portuguese teammate Bruno Fernandes picked a lock by lifting a ball over a deep Spurs defense towards the striker. The ball, passing over Ronaldo’s left shoulder, fell perfectly for the veteran to hit home on the volley and shoot the visitors in the lead.
It was a pure quality goal matched only by Ronaldo’s assist for Cavani’s strike in the second half – a blow between the legs to free himself from danger and a deep pass made up for the Uruguayan. Ronaldo came out with 20 minutes to go, his job more than done. How many more times will he save Solskjaer?
Bruno Fernandes 7/10
An assist and a crucial role played in United’s second goal, but Fernandes had one of his quietest nights in the capital. The usually dependent playmaker lost the ball several times and ended up backing down as much as he wanted to push.
It may not be Fernandes’ fault. United are at their best when counterattacking and exploiting space, which means Fernandes often has to be patient and confident that the opportunities will come their way.
In the end, they did. He forced the first goal with a remarkable chip for Ronaldo. He was forced to create the second thanks to the dilapidated organization of Spurs.
Harry Maguire 6/10
Harry Kane barely sniffed all afternoon but that wasn’t due to Maguire’s performance. The large number of defensive bodies around the attacker meant he made his signature drop in midfield in order to reclaim some possession, and then looked to feed off Son Heung-min.
Son was unlucky not to score after passing Maguire, who was saved by Wan-Bissaka’s late lunge. The Englishman, booked early to play in a new three-way look in defense, seemed at times as confused as he was against Mohamed Salah and co. Last weekend.
It wasn’t a great performance, but it was enough to suggest that Solskjaer could find long-term success in a three-way back row. Still, it was the presence of Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof that earned United a clean sheet here.
It’s almost impossible to know what to do with Fred game by game. Against Leeds earlier this season, he was exceptional and he performed quite well on Saturday despite being yellow carded. Solskjaer is confident that the Fred-McTominay partnership will work in the midfield even though the majority of United fans seem to feel differently.
At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Fred was his usual fickle, but tested Hugo Lloris from a distance in the first half and had no problem dealing with the Spurs midfielder. Having Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka higher up certainly helped fill in the gaps usually left by the Brazilian or his Scottish teammate.
But Fred is still not the long-term solution to United’s midfield problems and a sharper Spurs side could have exploited his reluctance here.