Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer take Man United back to the top?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side will face Liverpool FC at Old Trafford on Sunday
On 19 December 2018, it was confirmed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would take on the role of caretaker manager for Manchester United; for many fans, and players, it was news to celebrate — perhaps with a bit of caution.
Just one day prior, former manager Jose Mourinho’s departure was announced by the club a day after they lost 3-1 to historic rivals Liverpool. It was an abrupt ending to two-and-a-half trying – and sometimes controversial – years under Mourinho, who presided over what The Telegraph described as “the worst start to a Premier League season in United’s history.”
For many United fans, Solskjaer was a welcome choice. The Norwegian manager’s history with the club dates back to 1996 when he arrived in England to join Manchester United with a transfer from Molde. Solskjaer quickly became a fan favourite. Nicknamed the ‘baby-faced assassin’, during his 11 years at Old Trafford, he scored 126 goals in 366 appearances, including the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. As a Man United player, he also won six Premier League titles and two FA Cups.
As a manager, Solskjaer still has a lot to prove. His management of his former club Molde club was a success, leading them to two title wins in Norway’s professional football league, Eliteserien. But a stint as manager of Cardiff City in 2014 was deemed a failure; after nine months as manager, Cardiff City were relegated from the Premier League, and Solskjaer stepped down from the role.
But for Solskjaer, as well as Manchester United, things seem to have changed.
Solskjaer’s influence so far
The club, fans and football betting lovers are already seeing a great result from what has been described as Solskjaer’s new bold, risk-taking approach for Manchester United. While some players felt Mourinho was too cautious for fear of the power of their opponents, Solskjaer seems to be a man that is utilising their strengths.
And it seems to be working.
Since taking on the role as interim manager, Manchester United has secured nine wins out of ten matches — with a 2-2 draw against Burnley as their only sense of a setback. In just seven weeks it seems he has transformed the team’s morale, tactics and playing style and has achieved victory after victory as a result.
“It’s easier here because I know what the DNA and identity of Manchester United is and what a Manchester United player is,” he said in a quote from The Telegraph.
“It’s a winning identity. It’s a confident identity. We want to take risks. We want to go for the second, the third and the fourth goal because that’s just how we do things at Manchester United. If you can’t handle that then you are at the wrong club.”
So, which players are helping take Solskjaer’s United to the top?
Forward Marcus Rashford kicked off Solskjaer’s first game in charge of Manchester United with a goal against Cardiff City in the first three minutes. He has secured six goals total over nine games under Solskjaer’s bold leadership.
Jesse Lingard scored a penalty as well as a goal during Solskjaer’s first game, which ended as a 5-1 win against Cardiff.
French midfielder Paul Pogba has also flourished under Solskjaer’s leadership, scoring consecutive braces in games against both Huddersfield and Bournemouth.
Alongside the revival of the club’s best players is Solskjaer’s successful influence on Anthony Martial signing a new four year contact at the club, who at 23 has made 162 appearances and scored 46 goals for Manchester United since September 2015.
“When you’ve got Martial and Jesse Lingard down either side, Rashford up top with Paul supporting them, it’s exhilarating to watch and as long as we keep that standard up we’ll keep up picking points,” said Solskjaer, about the members of his winning side.
With upcoming matches against Liverpool and Manchester City, fans, players as well as Solskjaer himself are hopeful that Manchester United could still achieve one of the top spots in the League table; ultimately transforming the club over the course of a season.
And with nine-out-of-ten wins for Manchester United under Solskjaer’s leadership, there is definitely a good chance the role of caretaking manager could become a permanent one.