The 16th of December 2018 is now a distant memory in the subconscious of Manchester United. Faint recollections of the 36 shots Liverpool had upon the United goal is all that remain of heinous Merseyside nightmare. The cries of Jose Mourinho, we want you to stay’ by the Liverpool fans act as a relict of a different time. For United were beaten 3-1 in a game which ultimately ended the reign of the Special One. It was a truly embarrassing performance that personified everything that was wrong with Manchester United under Mourinho.
The situation United now find themselves in could not be more different. Instead of being on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat, they have just beaten Arsenal 3-1 away at the Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup Fourth Round. It’s all down to one man. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He has oversaw a staggering turnaround in the fortunes of the club. The victory against Arsenal made it 8 wins in a row under the former striker. A feat many fans and pundits would have scoffed at in the immediate aftermath of the Anfield debacle. But immense credit must be given to Solskjaer for changing not only the results, but the entire atmosphere surrounding the club.
Since the Ferguson era ended in 2013, it would not be an understatement to say that United have struggled to create any semblance of a coherent identity. Despite only being at the helm for a matter of weeks, Solskjaer has this United team playing like the United of old. Fast, counter attacking football, high work rate and simply playing to win the game are all hallmarks of the most successful United sides and are traits that Solskjaer has instilled in his team. We haven’t seen United play such entertaining football since Alex Ferguson departed and the fans must be delighted.
Solskjaer differs from his predecessors in that he recognises that he is manager of Manchester United, one of the most successful clubs in the world. It sounds simple but it’s something that Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho simply failed to grasp.
In press conferences, Solskjaer regularly states that as Manchester United you expect to win every game. Too often previous managers downplayed expectations or suggested that they weren’t good enough or at the level of their rivals. That is simply unacceptable for Manchester United and something that Solskjaer has sought to eradicate with extreme haste.
On an individual level, the Manchester United players seem to be performing better under Solskjaer than they were at any point under Mourinho. Solskjaer has instilled a new-found confidence and swagger in this United side that has been severely and noticeably lacking in earlier seasons. The performances of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof in particular have been outstanding since the Norwegian took over at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer plays his strongest team in their natural positions and the results speak for themselves. The new manager bounce is a common phenomenon in football. What he has done in his short tenure as Manchester United manager may yet prove to be another occurrence of this trend. But to win 8 games in a row, and to win them in the manner they have, means Solskjaer deserves immense praise. If he continues in this manner, then the calls to make him permanent manager will only get louder.
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