Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the experience of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani was key to Manchester United’s 3-0 win at Tottenham on Saturday as they bounced back from a humiliating 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool six days ago.
After a week of intense speculation over his future, Solskjaer got all his major calls right as Ronaldo and Cavani, at a combined age of 70, both scored after being paired up front together for the first time.
A switch to a back three, aided by the return of Raphael Varane from injury, also helped Solskjaer’s men register just a second clean sheet in 22 games.
“We’ve built this performance on hard work, discipline and keeping the ball away from our goal,” said Solskjaer.
“We worked on this this week. The boys were brilliant, they took it on board.
“Raphael Varane is a top player. He reads the game well. He’s quick and so experienced. To get him back is massive for us.”
The signings of Ronaldo, Varane and Jadon Sancho were expected to turn United into title challengers this season.
Instead, they are eight points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea after 10 games, but did move up to fifth thanks to a first league win in five games.
The impact of Ronaldo’s arrival on the balance of the team has been questioned.
But there is little doubting the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s finishing as he volleyed in his seventh goal in 11 games since returning to the club, to settle United’s nerves.
Ronaldo then turned provider for Cavani to double United’s lead with a deft chip over Hugo Lloris in the second period.
“The experience came through,” said Solskjaer. “I was told that’s the oldest team I’ve picked for Man Utd and it was time for it.
“I’ve been here three years and Tuesday’s training performance by Edinson Cavani was the best training performance anyone has put in here.
“They played well together, they have loads of respect for each other. We have loads of talented players but they have to learn from those two. The work rate they put in, the quality they put in is second to none.”
However, Solskjaer was keen to stress that one good performance will not erase the stain of last weekend’s record home defeat to their bitter rivals.
“That’s always going to be in the history books – one of the darkest days. A dark spot on our CV,” added Solskjaer.
“We’ve got a hard week again. Champions League game then (Manchester) City. We’ve got to digest this one and be ready for Tuesday (against Atalanta).”