Tottenham reach their Mount Everest in stunning Champions League win over Manchester City

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Admit it, who really thought that Tottenham would see a way past Manchester City- a club who have poured hundreds of millions of English pounds into their team to win the Champions League- but that is what Tottenham did. The very same Tottenham who bought no players in either transfer window this season and then lost Harry Kane to injury.

This week which saw the fall of Juventus and their £100m Ronaldo gamble to the youth of Ajax and the grace and sheer class of Lionel Messi’s one man show for Barcelona against Manchester United, there was an even bigger story that will live on in the hearts of football fans everywhere.

Tottenham playing Manchester City was always going to be a big draw- indeed any two teams from the same country playing each other in the latter stage knock outs of the Champions League means the football world will pay attention. Unfortunately though there is an uncanny way for these games to play out with very few goals and a cagey nervous affair where each team cancels out each other- the 2003 Champions League final anyone? When Milan only seized victory over Juventus in a penalty shoot out after spending 120 minutes consoling over a 0-0 result.

In some ways this is how the first leg of this match did play out. City remained the favourites but it was Tottenham who got a 1-0 victory- their first European game at their new stadium no less, through a Son Heung-Min goal. Ever the darer and the saviour for Tottenham this season, the South Korean player has stepped up in the past 12 months. For City they played an unusual game, desperate for clear cut chances and perhaps some of the blame could have gone to coach Pep Guardiola with his tactics and starting choices. Those decisions looked like it would be made up for the 2nd leg, but let’s face it nobody was prepared for what would happen at the Etihad.

Going into the crucial next match, City knew that they had to score two goals or they would be out. It took them less than 250 seconds to get the first goal through the irreplaceable Raheem Sterling. And then something quite wonderful (if you’re not a City fan happened) because it was at the stage when ball left Son and hit the back of the net for Tottenham’s equaliser that Spurs, the team that play great football, but the pretenders to titles did not read the script.

When Son struck again to put the Londoners 2-1 up three minutes later all of a sudden all of the hard work behind the scenes, rooted in the tiresome work of Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff and the vision of club owner Daniel Levy came to the forefront, and we could embrace the fact that this club, Spurs, have stepped up to another level, one not seen in a generation.

That didn’t mean that Guardiola’s side were dead on their feet, no team at home that plays such beautiful attacking football was suddenly going to give up, with 80 minutes still to play City had time on their side. They needed to score 3 goals and one was pulled back 60 seconds after Son had roared away with a semi final and Ajax in his sights. Bernardo Silva was the man to give City hope and ten minutes after that Sterling struck again- this was madness. We had witnessed 5 goals in 21 barnstorming moments of English football, played mostly by wonderful continental footballers in a European Cup setting. There had been a goal every 4 mins and 20 seconds, and it felt too much even, you didn’t know what was going to happen next. And it got better.

The first half ended 3-2 to City who now only needed one more goal to go through. As the second half got underway it was apparent that the Goliath which is City was steadily taking the game away from the David which was Spurs. City were playing their game and most notably the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne so cruelly not picked by Guardiola to start in the first leg was playing one of his best matches this season, and when it mattered, underlining just how important he is to the side.

Just before the hour mark Tottenham’s dream inevitably caved in when Sergio Aguero (who else)? made it 4-2 to City, and now City were going through to only their second semi final. Tottenham had to score but it was City controlling the pace of the game. And yet as crazy as the match was playing out, you knew Tottenham would get their chance and 14 minutes later the ball fell to Fernando Llorente who with a hip, elbow? and force- got the ball in the net. If any doubts persisted on the legality of the goal then VAR crushed it and Tottenham got their goal. Now they were going through and City were going out.

City attacked, Spurs stayed firm and the minutes closed in- neutral football fans couldn’t breathe, to be a fan of either club defined a new term in squeaky bum syndrome and yet the drama was not over. City needed another goal and as the 90th minute came and went all looked lost until Sterling scored again- it was in, the goal sent Sterling, the fans and Guardiola into euphoria, until VAR flagged up an incident. Was Sergio Aguero offside when the ball was played back in? Hearts in mouths, and what drama, the time ticked by in the real world but stood still for the 53,000 fans inside the stadium. The verdict came back…. Goal denied- City were out of the Champions League and Tottenham had reached their first European Cup semi final in 57 years and their first ever Champions League one.

It was an incredible night of football- with the players as much as VAR in the end playing its role. City could feel hard done by- without VAR they would most probably have squeezed through, but with justice intended they didn’t. And one would have to criticise a team at this stage of the competition for conceding 4 goals over 2 games. Yes Tottenham did the same, but for City the Champions League was supposed to be the one endearing trophy that the club have been wanting to win.

As for Tottenham they have a new role, as the remaining last 4 team. They will play Ajax- unfortunate for them it is an Ajax who look back to their best, they have already knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus from this competition. If they get past that test it is Liverpool or Barcelona in the final.

As for this game it will be remembered as one of the most exciting Champions League matches and will be talked about for some time. And there will be no love lost between the clubs who in less than 72 hours will do this all over again in the Premier League in the same stadium, one can only imagine what will happen….

 

 

 

How Tottenham are fighting for Champions League glory & top 4 position even without a transfer policy

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This weeks club ownership focuses on Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur who have had quite a successful season when one thinks that the London club have brought in no new players.

When some clubs are spending staggering amounts of money in the summer window, somehow the days, weeks and months rolled on with Tottenham not dipping into the transfer market. Chairman Daniel Levy knew that the clubs new stadium was going to cost much more than anticipated and purse strings had to be tightened.

The predictions were already in for the season that Tottenham would do poorly in the Champions League and that they had no chance of winning the Premier League and that they wouldn’t even be able to challenge for a top 4 position.

What compounded everything for the club was the news that they would have to play their home games at Wembley Stadium with the redevelopment and in the end brand new stadium on the site of their old stadium. Delays were fraught with frustration and when it seemed that the club would be moving into their new stadium by the end of the year that was delayed once more.

But still the players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli and the terrific Son Heung-Min stepped up, the whole team did and in doing so have done manager Mauricio Pochettino proud. Tottenham may not win any trophies this season but they have done themselves proud.

At the time of writing the club have one foot in the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating Manchester City 1-0 in the 1st leg quarter final tie. The match is far from over but the club have given themselves a chance.

In the league Tottenham have been 3rd for most of the season and competitive at that. They have slipped up in recent weeks but despite injuries to Kane and Alli they continued to win games, and they have continued to upset teams who have spent much more than them.

Levy and Pochettino had a plan, true it was risky but they both realised that they had the squad to cope with this season. Of course having a no transfer budget plan is football suicide in the long run, but instead of spending £100m upwards this season the club have held back in order to go into a fresh season in their new stadium and have one would hope a good budget and deals for next season.

It should be an interesting summer at Tottenham and if the club can hold onto their best players and buy 3-4 ones that they really need then next season could be the one where Pochettino breaks his duck for the club. Of course let’s not forget that they are still in the Champions League and if they get past City they could face either Juventus or Ajax in the semi’s for a mind dazzling final. Now that would be something.

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AC Milan are in dreamland if they think they can lure Mauricio Pochettino from Tottenham

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There have been reports from Italy over the weekend linking Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino to Italian giants AC Milan, and whilst many would say that the story is non starter, the truth is if this has any backable concrete evidence it would be a non starter anyway.

Sadly for Italian football this isn’t the mid 1990′s- European football in England and Spain has left Italian football behind, both on the pitch and off it and there would be zero chance of Pochettino leaving Tottenham and the Premier League at this stage.

In Italy so much has to be changed. On the pitch AC Milan have a team of players that feel unrecognizable compared to the greats that graced the team in the 1990′s. They are reportedly offering Pochettino a £300m so called ‘war chest’, but guess what- players are not tripping over themselves to come to Milan anymore. And even if he did get the money it would take years to rebuild the side. Why leave an exciting project like Tottenham to take 10 steps back and try it again at Milan?

The moment Italy goes quite on hooliganism and showing too much respect to the ultras the supporters who are supposed to create a daunting atmosphere but instead chant out vile racist slurs, that’s the moment that serious football managers turn their back on the league.

Serie A is falling behind at a record rate, with only one club in Juventus flying the flag, and even they have the skill of bottling it when it really matters. At Tottenham Pochettino has not won anything granted, but he is managing a club in a league that has largely moved on from its hooligan and racist days. Yes all of that still exists within the game but at least in England when it does, it is not ignored and it is punished. Could you imagine for example a black player in the Premier League being subjected to racist chants and their team mate saying it was ’50/50′ like Leonardo Bonucci said about Moise Kean for Juventus? Staggering doesn’t come close.

Italian football is a joy to behold and there is so much to love about the game. Let’s not make any mistake that Serie A does have the capabilities of being a better league and more exciting league than Spain’s La Liga and England’s Premier League combined. But the league and the mentality of some involved within it are from anarchic times. Education is needed within the game, infrastructure and a sense of moving forward are too. But we were talking about this 15-20 years ago and little has changed.

In short Pochettino will be saying thank you, but no thanks to Milan, because he is with a completely professional team in a professional league that only looks to the future not to its past.

EPL Game of the Weekend – Liverpool vs Tottenham

liverpool-tottenhamWhen a weekend of Premier League action sees some unusually uniform results, it can be difficult to choose a “Game of the Weekend” from the bunch, and depends largely on your criteria. Perhaps Southampton’s 1-0 win at Brighton stands out for you, if for no other reason than it was the only game with less than two goals. If you are a fan of Crystal Palace or Leicester then no doubt you would have been pleased to see your beloved side record a home win, or maybe Everton fans could be the happiest as they won away from home with a clean sheet at West Ham – the only side other than Man City to do so. Of course, if a game could have more of an impact on the progressing season, there can surely be little argument that Liverpool taking on Spurs tops the bill.

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A new era for Tottenham Hotspur has begun as stadium finally opens

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Finally it has happened, Tottenham’s new ground has opened and it has been met by a sense of wonder and amazement.

The Tottenham youth side tested out at the ground at the weekend and a legends line up will face a legends line up of Inter Milan next weekend. These matches are needed in order for the stadium to be granted a safety certificate.

There is no doubt that a new era has begun for Tottenham and you could see the relief on manager Mauricio Pochettino’s face and also of course on Daniel Levy, the Tottenham owner. Here was a stadium that was supposed to be ready by the beginning of the season and delays have meant that the club have had to play games at Wembley Stadium. Whilst it is true that Tottenham responded well at their temporary home, there is no place quite like home.

And that is what makes this new stadium so special, forget what Arsenal did with the Emirates. This new stadium is on the same site as the very original which makes it extra special and will warm fans hearts. It looks spectacular and holds 62,000 fans, and it is of course state of the art. Comfort for fans is a priority and special refreshment bars mean that thousands of pints of beer can be dispensed within minutes, nothing has been left to chance!

But the real beauty in presenting the new stadium is a new era of hope for the club. Pochettino has shown the fans the potential of this current team and while they are yet to win a trophy under the Argentinian they have pulled off some terrific results and surely as a club are playing the best football Tottenham fans have seen in a generation.

The key for the club will be transfer budgets and keeping their best players. One believes that the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli will be going nowhere soon given the big move into the stadium and wanting to be a part of the new era. But the club who somehow went through the season buying no players will need to dip into the transfer market if they want to stay competitive and indeed move up to the next level.

Tottenham should take note that rivals Arsenal did struggle after moving into their new stadium at least in terms of finding cash to buy players. In the first two seasons at their new ground the Gunners spent just £40m, and there is the fear that Tottenham’s budget could be crippled somewhat by stadium costs. But Levy has commented in the past that this will not be an issue, we wait and see.

Tottenham’s first scheduled match at their new stadium will be against Crystal Palace on April 3rd which is a Wednesday evening game. The week after that they will play Manchester City in a mouth watering Champions League first leg. Could the fact the club have moved into this fantastic stadium make all the difference? Watch this space. What is sure is that exciting times lie ahead for this famous London club.

Why Ryan Fraser is ready made for Mauricio Pochettino’s project at Tottenham Hotspur

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Ryan Fraser in recent months has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, an individual who is having one of his best seasons as a Bournemouth player and is in his fourth campaign within the Premier League.

When a player from a mid-table side is in fine form and is playing a crucial role towards his team finishing in the top half of the table, they instantly become wanted by the top clubs in England. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Ruben Neves and Wilfried Zaha have unsurprisingly entered this category thanks to the contributions and performances they’ve produced for their respective clubs.

Focusing back onto Fraser himself, it’s time to look at his rise within the Premier League over the last year or so, and how he has caught the attention of Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur.

With no further ado…

He fits well into Pochettino’s and Spurs’ project

Pochettino has made a name for himself when it comes to developing young talented players and taking them to the next level since arriving to England in January 2013. From his early days at Southampton up until his current days at Tottenham, he has helped a number of English youngsters to make improvements and tweaks to their style of play, with the well-known ones being Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier, Kyle and James Ward-Prowse.

On top of that, the former Espanyol and Southampton coach is yet to make many signings of the age of 30 and over, which clearly shows the players he brings in are those are who suited to his long term plans and are willing to stay around for at least three to five years. With Fraser turning 25 in a few days time, he has the ideal skillset to go on to being someone who can control and dictate the side’s attack, especially given he has created the most chances (17) in the league so far this season.

Pochettino craves for intelligent midfielders

Looking at Tottenham’s current midfield, it’s none other than Christian Eriksen who is pulling the strings for the side, a player who is very tidy on the ball and can produce something out of nothing. Meanwhile, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko have actually come into their own in the last couple of months, but are yet to show they have the ability or the spark to guide the team forward, to produce a moment of brilliance from midfield and importantly for when their key men are not on the pitch.

But if Spurs were to go all out for Fraser, they will be going for an individual who is stepping up on his numbers in the final third of the pitch and is proving to be a valuable asset when it comes to delivering set-pieces. Currently on five goals and nine assists in 26 league games, if the Scotland international was to confidently hit double figures in both departments before the season finishes, he would potentially be making a serious name to become one off Tottenham’s main transfer targets for the summer window.

Allows Eriksen to player higher up the pitch

It is more or less fair to say that, Eriksen is one of the side’s most crucial players and is seen as one of the best playmakers within the league and the whole of Europe. Although he is playing in a deep role at this moment of time, alongside either Winks or Eric Dier in the middle of the pitch, the possible arrival of a central midfielder would allow him to play high up the pitch once again, where he can feed the perfect passes into Harry Kane, Heung Min-Son and Fernando Llorente like a piece of cake.

If Ryan Fraser just happens to be that midfield signing in the summer, he could play a useful role as a box-to-box midfielder as well as in Eriksen’s position for whenever the Danish playmaker is in need of a rest or is unable to start the match. The Aberdeen-born star has proven himself as a versatile play over the last couple of months, where has played in all the tactical roles within midfield and also the key areas out on the flanks, which could be important to Pochettino as he continues to utilise a small squad.

Tottenham can still win the league with an almighty run

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So the scenario is that the Premier League is a two horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City, but perhaps Tottenham have a chance too. While the media pour column inches over the two teams nobody is really talking about Tottenham who are just five points behind Liverpool. Could they really have a chance?

If the form books go as they should it looks like the new champions will end up with anything between 90-94 points. No matter how good Liverpool and City have been they are going to drop more points this season.

Tottenham looked out of the league a few weeks back after falling almost 10 points behind Liverpool, but the Reds have dropped points through drawing games and City lost in between that and the teams look more bunched up and close than many people think.

So do Tottenham have a chance? There is the possibility of it. They have 39 points left on the table and have 57 in total. If they were to win every game they would end up with 96 points which should be enough to win the league. The problem is not many teams are capable of winning 13 games in a row, but if it is going to happen then it should towards the end of the season when your club are going for a title.

Of Tottenham’s 13 fixtures 7 are at home if we can imagine the club winning at least all of their home fixtures that would take them to 78 points alone. Of course Spurs have some difficult matches coming up where they will have to play the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and only the Arsenal game will be at home. On top of that is the Champions League, and if Spurs are going to try to maintain a league challenge it’s difficult for them in their present state to also go full throttle for Europe.

Still Mauricio Pochettino’s side will feel that they can exert real pressure on the top two teams. Their next fixtures both look winnable at least on paper when they will entertain Leicester before an away match against Burnley. Having said that you never can quite tell what Leicester side will turn up and Burnley have really improved as a team.

At the very least Tottenham should be finishing 3rd this season and if Pochettino is given some cash injections in the summer they have to go for the title that has eluded them since 1961 next season.

 

Is Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino right about putting a top 4 place above trophies?

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It’s not been a good week for Tottenham Hotspur by any stretch of the imagination after the club were knocked out of the Carabao Cup and then at the weekend Crystal Palace beat them in the FA Cup. Manager Mauricio Pochettino in defending the club has come out and said that the most important thing for the club is finishing in the top 4 in the league and not trophies, but is he right?

There is no doubt of course that the lure of playing in the Champions League is what the elite clubs need, and then there is the money and extra gate receipts for European football. If Tottenham want to attract the best players they need to be playing in the Champions League full stop, so a top 4 regular finish is a must.

But one must wonder what Tottenham fans have made of what Pochettino has said- in effect that trophies give players egos. His priorities do not seem to be about filling up the trophy cabinet. Of course one could argue that if the club won the FA Cup but finished 5th that would be a sore point to their season. On the same hand surely the fans want that glory and to see their team win silverware?

Pochettino is perhaps just trying to take the pressure from himself given that he has yet to win any trophies in his managerial career- and let’s be honest the way he has coached Tottenham it seems like only a matter of time before Pochettino will start winning trophies.

He did seem to contradict himself a little when he says that a top 4 finish is more important than winning trophies, as a top 4 finish only qualifies the club to play in another trophy. Still it is clear that for Pochettino that the only trophies worth winning are the league title and the Champions League.

While that attitude should be applauded, sometimes we need to refer to the walk before you can run method and that trophies no matter if they are not as important should be taken with equal value. One could argue that if Tottenham started to win domestic cups the team would build a winning mentality to go on and then win the bigger prizes.

For now the club are left with the league which looks like a distant hope and the Champions League where they will face Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.

No Kane, no Alli, no Son- Tottenham set to face their biggest test yet

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If you are a supporter of Tottenham you could well claim that despite your club being 3rd in the league, playing some wonderful football and getting great results it has felt like one thing after another- as they say in these parts of London, if it doesn’t rain it pours.

The news that Harry Kane, Son and Dele Alli will be out for extended periods at such a critical time may just be the body blow that ends Tottenham’s season, and that would be an incredibly sad story given how strong the club have been this season.

With Son everyone knew that the popular forward would be unavailable this month given that the Asian Cup has kicked off. Son’s national side South Korea were almost knocked out yesterday when they needed extra time to beat Bahrain. Now they are in the quarter finals and will be one of the favourites to go all the way to the final which takes place on February 1st. If all goes well Son could return to the club for the home game against Leicester a week later.

Son has been very good this season and has been an integral part of the team and his goals will be missed. Talking of goals even though the news was announced over a week ago, it is still devastating to think that Harry Kane could be out until March. Here is a player that has scored 160 goals for Tottenham and already 20 this season in all competitions. But with his ligament ankle injury he is set to miss crucial Premier League games, the Champions League first leg and if Tottenham make it to the Carabao Cup final he could miss that. He isn’t officially due back until the middle of March.

Make no mistake about it, Tottenham will miss their key forward and influential England international.

When Tottenham played Fulham away from home last weekend they were without Kane and Son. And so manager Mauricio Pochettino brought Dele Alli more forward. The result was that the club were rewarded and then stung. Alli scored, Tottenham won 2-1 in a very close game and then Alli was reported injured- he will miss the next 6 weeks in more crushing news for the club.

One has to wonder how Tottenham will be able to cope with such depletions? And one also has to wonder if not buying any players in the summer is now coming back to haunt the club? Surely they will dip into the transfer market even if only for a loan deal. One player that has been suggested is West Ham’s Andy Carroll which would feel like a surprise given how many times the player has been injured throughout his career.

Tottenham face potentially their biggest game of the season so far on Thursday when they visit Chelsea in the 2nd leg of the Carabao Cup semi final. Spurs take a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge and with all of their recent injuries are not the bookmakers favourites to advance to the final.

Pochettino will have to find a way how to play without so much striking talent on the field. Some solutions may be to advance Christian Eriksen and play Eric Lamela wide. And there might be an opportunity for youngster Oliver Skipp who is being highly touted as Spurs next best player.

This season has been incredibly tough for Tottenham, with stadium delays, no new players and Pochettino being linked to Manchester United. If any club are going to overcome the problems being hurled at them it seems that Tottenham are well prepared.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men keep bouncing on

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After spending a good couple of days in Dubai to recover back their energy and momentum following the festive fixtures, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United first task back was a tricky trip away to third-place Tottenham Hotspur. The match would be seen as a make or break moment for the visitors, as a defeat would seriously deny the side’s chances of finishing in the top four.

However, Solskjaer did what the likes of David Moyes, Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal couldn’t do, and that was beat an aggressive and dominant Tottenham team away from home. With how the Red Devils played on and off the ball, as well as the patience they showed on both sides of the pitch, it would not be a surprise to see the race for third and fourth place being extreme from now till May.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

David De Gea shows his brilliance in goal

Today at the Wembley Stadium, David De Gea set a new personal record, as he incredibly managed to complete 11 saves in a single Premier League for Manchester United without conceding a goal. His increasing influence is what makes him the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and one of the best in Europe, as he continues to save the club at least 10 to 12 crucial points season by season.

Time and time again, the opposition’s attackers and their home supporters are left in awe and total shock, especially when they feel a clear chance is going to end into the back of the net, bar it is saved by no one else but De Gea himself. Without a doubt, the Spanish international is up there with the likes of Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Kevin De Bruyne as one of the best players within the league.

Marcus Rashford is proving he can be clinical and deadly

From his early days under Louis Van Gaal to playing on a regular basis for Jose Mourinho, Marcus Rashford had always shown magical moments as well as his scary potential to go onto become United’s ideal number nine for the next ten years. Though, the only thing that was letting him down was his lack of ability to be clinical and to finish, something he could not improve on straightaway.

On the other hand, the arrival of Solskjaer has helped him to evolve into an individual that can slowly reach the appreciation and hype that the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Demebele receives, as long as he becomes consistent and reliable. For the time being, Rashford has done more than enough over the last couple of weeks which has led the coach to drop Romelu Lukaku to the bench.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeds in his first big task as interim manager

The victories against the lower sides in Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle United were seen as the much needed and straightforward ones, particularly because of the fact that the team were moving away from the top four spots week in and out. However, a cool, calm and collected victory away at Tottenham is starting to show that Solskjaer could be the real deal.

It may not be the right time to question if he is the right manager for Manchester United in the long run or not, but you cannot deny that he has began to revive the side’s attacking and breathtaking football. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somehow rallies the current squad to a top four finish as well as a potential FA Cup trophy, the Old Trafford faithful will without a doubt feel he is the chosen one.