EL Sackicko is what the wags are calling it. They might be a tad hasty in ascribing the pejorative label to this evening's fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United but it speaks to the ferment among supporters of both clubs that they would have no qualms if either of their managers were to be relieved of their duties in the aftermath of the game. Yet, the impression from among the hierarchies in the boardrooms of London and Manchester does not immediately suggest a bloodletting is imminent.

Spurs sit sixth in the table and are into the last-eight of the Carabao Cup despite an insipid start to the campaign under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo while the Old Trafford board let it leak in midweek that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who will bring up three years in the United hotseat should he last until mid-December – has three games to save his job.

Of the two men, it is the latter's position that is the most precarious. The thorns of the 5-0 defeat by Liverpool have left deep wounds and a massacre at the Tottenham Stadium of similar size to the one experienced last weekend will tip the Glazers' hands.

Fortunately for Solskjaer, the fixture list has been kind and the Norwegian has found trips to Spurs – where he is unbeaten as United manager – have generally been forgiving experiences. It helps, too, that he takes his bedraggled troops to London to face a side that is similarly dishevelled. 'Dr Tottenham will see you now', as Spurs fans love to joke.

For Tottenham supporters, it is a different matter that vexes them. Results have barely improved from those under Jose Mourinho – the Portuguese presided over just two wins in six league wins – but that is not the main issue. The performances are equally dismal, the latest a soporific 1-0 victory over Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening – and there appears little sign of tangible progress.

There is a sense that Spurs are a club without direction and it is impossible not to conclude that that emanates from the top down. Daniel Levy, the chairman, talked of recapturing the Spurs DNA in his programme notes prior to the final home game of last season against Aston Villa. It was left to others to surmise what that might mean – to those of a long-standing Tottenham persuasion who had witnessed sterile, soulless performances under Mourinho it certainly portended better football more akin to that which had been played under Mauricio Pochettino.

Levy deserves plenty of blame for how that marriage soured. Pochettino had cautioned against the reckless approach to recruitment over an 18-month spell in which Spurs sat on their hands without making a signing at a time when they were one of the ascendent teams in the Premier League. There has followed a succession of horrendous boardroom decisions – from the dismissal of the avuncular Argentine who played a high-energy, modern pressing game to his replacement with the divisive Mourinho, his coaching antithesis; Levy's fingers-in-ears approach to fan concerns has not helped.

Levy's miscues have continued – not least the ill-judged statement about rediscovering the club's DNA. In came Fabio Paratici, a sporting director with a self-professed desire to play defensive football, then there was a summer long hunt for a manager which only seemed to confirm worst fears especially when, after flirting with or considering Pochettino, Julian Nagelsmann, Brendan Rodgers, Hansi Flick, Antonio Conte, Gennaro Gattuso, Paulo Fonseca and Ralf Rangnick, Paratici turned to Nuno, a man from a couple of branches down the coaching tree to the Special One. In short: Mourinho without the trophies.

A two-year deal hardly smacked of a ringing endorsement in his manager by Levy – whom it is claimed had to be convinced by a Paratici pitch that extolled the attacking virtues of Nuno's Valencia side that the 47-year-old was the right man for the job. Three insipid wins at the start of the season and a couple of others since has masked plenty of Tottenham deficiencies. In victory, they have been functional, in defeat clueless.

The whole arrangement feels as if it is only a matter of time before the new man is relieved of his duties and, yet, his short-term future feels infinitely more secure than the man he will pit his wits against this evening.

Post-Mourinho, Solskjaer progressed United very swiftly when he took over from him in December 2018. There has been exponential improvement in league position year-on-year – from sixth to third to second but he has not been helped by each of the titles in those years being shared between Liverpool and Manchester City their two biggest rivals. Nor by some of the ill-thought out strategies at boardroom level that have similarly plagued Spurs. A look at United's transfer spend in the years since Solskjaer was appointed reveals a figure of more than £300m while Liverpool have a net profit of £3.6m in the same period.

If Tottenham have looked rudderless, United resemble a mutinous crew on a sinking ship. Leaks from inside the dressing room suggest players have openly questioned Solskjaer on his tactics, his team selection and his loyalty to those who are out of form but played regularly at the expense of those who have performed well in training such as Donny Van de Beek, who has had just five minutes in the league all season.

The mental picture is one of warring factions inside the dressing room with one report suggesting that it is the unlikely figure of Cristiano Ronaldo who is keeping the lid on a boiling pot. One only needs to look at the malaise on the pitch to understand that all is not right. United have kept one clean sheet in their past 20 games and appear further behind City and Liverpool then ever.

When these sides met at around this stage last season it was at a similar juncture of crisis for Solskjaer, United lost 6-1 at Old Trafford but they then embarked on a run that brought just four more league defeats in the course of the campaign.

He will not find the same opportunities granted so freely should another this evening end in another defeat.