Former Manchester United manager José Mourinho’s homecoming at Old Trafford was spoiled when the Red Devils triumphed over his new side Tottenham Hotspur Wednesday. Goals in the first and second half from Marcus Rashford helped United defeat their Big Six foes and for the time being, stalled the banter from the #OleOut cohort.
With another contentious match this weekend, this victory adds a lovely bit of confidence for the home team and puts them within reach of the top four. Here are three things we learned from United’s 2-1 win against Spurs.
Rashford performs better under Solskjaer than his predecessor
Marcus Rashford is having a hell of a season, and that’s putting it lightly. The 22-year-old has found the back of the net for United nine times in domestic play and 12 times across all competitions this year, with several of those goals coming against difficult sides. The Englishman could have easily bagged a hat trick against his former manager on Wednesday, but saves from Paulo Gazzaniga prevented that from coming to fruition.
Nonetheless, it was obvious Rashford was itching to get one over his old boss. The academy graduate’s brace on Wednesday brings his total to 16 strikes in 34 games under Solskjaer, compared to 15 goals in 81 contests during the Mourinho era. In just the Spurs match alone, Rashford managed as many shots on target as he accomplished in his first 14 league matches for Mourinho last year.
Marcus Rashford has had as many shots on target vs. José Mourinho's Spurs tonight (4) as he managed in the first 14 Premier League games for José Mourinho's Man Utd in 2018/19.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 4, 2019
Two goals to show for it. pic.twitter.com/6Cz75UPhYT
The flashes of brilliances shown by Rashford as of late have been remarkable, and couldn’t have come at a more fortunate time. December is proving to be a decisive month for United in terms of top four prospects, Solskjaer’s role as manager, and the forthcoming January transfer window. If Rashford can maintain his run of success, this puts United in an ambitious position to perform well across all competitions.
Supporters still have faith in Ole
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is approaching his one year anniversary as manager of this team, assuming the caretaker role when United sacked Mourinho December 18 of last year. The last time both sides met in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino was still Tottenham’s manager and United walked away with all three points thanks to a lone goal from Rashford.
Things haven't all gone United’s way since then, but the response directed toward Solskjaer following Rashford’s first goal certainly won’t go unnoticed. In the sixth minute, chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” rang loudly throughout the Theatre of Dreams.
The fans still firmly on Ole’s side here pic.twitter.com/g2FW3Bswra— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) December 4, 2019
Even though the Norwegian has showed a lack of courage at some points this season, the cheerful shouts of faithful United fans encouraging the manager should likely boost morale heading into the Manchester derby Saturday. Despite accepting defeats against mediocre clubs, United have not lost against any of the Big Six sides this season, achieving statement wins over Chelsea, Leicester City, and Tottenham and draws with Arsenal and league leaders Liverpool.
Midfield showing a glimmer of improvement
United’s midfield unit has been a topic of conversation as of late, especially since a timetable for Paul Pogba’s return still remains questionable. Scott McTominay’s absence the last few matches nursing an injury was not ideal. However, his return Wednesday exemplified exactly what was lacking for United in the middle — a commanding presence to initiate some pressure on his teammates to play to their potential. In his post-match presser, Mourinho himself couldn’t help but to pile on the praise for one of his favorite Red Devils.
“They had more emotion than us,” Mourinho admitted. “You see for example, McTominay’s performance, the globality of his performance, he was dominant. He was dominant.”
The former Chelsea boss continued: “I told them about Old Trafford, I told them about some of their players.
“Like for example, McTominay the way they immediately show aggression in the beginning of the game. Rashford even going to press the keeper.
“This kind of attitude that shows initially intensity. But we were not in the game in the beginning.”
This was his first game back since injury, so naturally the Scot was still a bit sluggish, occasionally directing his passes at the opposition rather than members of his own team. However, the passion he showed during his time on the pitch demonstrates his willingness to confidently lead a team, and bodes well for United as they prepare for a testy match against cross-town rivals Manchester City on Saturday.