Exactly a month ago, the Old Trafford was part of an absolute turmoil. The infamous sacking of Jose Mourinho, United being winless across competitions, Players leaving the club, Injury issues and the list doesn’t end.
There was absolute gloom around the Old Trafford, something with which they were accustomed to, since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
As the saying goes, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. United were in desperate need of a tough guy who would help them sail past these storms of mediocrity.
There was always a sense among the fans that the managers who managed the club after Ferguson, didn’t understand the culture at the club. United wanted a guy, well-versed with the rich dignity of the prosperous side.
They wanted a manager, whose door is always open for every player facing a hard time on or off the field. They wanted a manager, who could not only give them results but also rebuild the trust among the fans after a string of middling performances.
At the stroke of noon on the 19th December ’18, When the air around Old Trafford suggested a rather un merry Christmas, the former Norwegian-cum-United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as the Caretaker Manager of Manchester United.
A day later, Solskjaer addressed the press with a sense of nervous calm. His answers presented grit and determination to bring his side back from the turmoil to flourish under him. The fans sensed a hope. A hope of something that was unimaginable, even in their wildest dreams sometime back.
Cut to, a month later, United just 3 points away from the top 4. On a winning streak of 7 games with 19 goals scored and conceding just 4 in the process. This was simply more than just a dream come true for a Red Devil.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been the chief architect of achieving what few could only hope for and that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Yes, a critic would stand up and say that Solskjaer’s only big test was against Tottenham and tougher tests beckon. But United have faced such opponents before and the quality of football on display in the recent past has been a connoisseur’s sight.
One of the many problems’ with Mourinho’s tactics were disoriented gameplay as the defense were simply unable to complement the attack as well as they should have and also they couldn’t seize the opportunities to counter-attack efficiently either.
Now, we have Luke Shaw, Lindelof, Diego Dalot in a few games, Ashley Young, all making their mark when presented with opportunities and Ander Herrera, Lingard, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford seizing upon the counter-attacks adeptly. These skills have a natural tendency of catching the opposition off guard and turning the game on its head in a couple of minutes.
One of the things that is admirable about this, is the kind of ruthlessness they have shown in the past few games. Being guilty of conceding before 40 minutes against Cardiff City and then scoring three more to make it 5-1 was an absolute statement about the revival of Manchester United.
Often in the past, United were found guilty of parking the bus when put under a slight modicum of pressure. This is long gone since the Norwegian took office. “Always try to keep the scorers busy” has been the mantra of this side which frankly seems unstoppable at the moment.
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Mourinho had his own share of differences with a number of United players as Lukaku went on a compassionate leave under him, Pogba was benched and Valencia stating to leave the club in the winter. Whereas Solskjaer on the other hand has nurtured the players like a father in through these tough times.
He stood tall for the club going through a rough patch, lifted the morale of the players, brought back their mojo and the results are there for everyone to see and cherish.
Hence, the wish list mentioned as at the start is close to being fulfilled. A tough guy, check. A player’s manager, check. An accustomed guy, big check. Find me someone more accustomed than someone who played a pivotal role for 10 years at the club during its golden era, I’ll wait.
There is a sense of a Ferguson comeback at Old Trafford ever since Solskjaer took charge. Ferguson – who had made a miraculous recovery from a brain hemorrhage suffered last year – was invited down to training by Solskjaer on one occasion, but that is the extent of his involvement, said his former forward.
“We don’t speak weekly,” said Solskjaer, via the Evening Standard.
“I haven’t spoken to him many times. He has been in to visit us just once – he has been to see (former player, Giuseppe) Rossi (who has been training with the club) once.The influence is more my 15 years under him. He is 77, it is not fair to him either is it?”He added.
Even after 7 games of revamping performances, the all-time humble Norwegian was quoted as saying,
“The past three managers have passed on so much knowledge that the players know they will have it in the locker because every day is an experience.”
A humble bloke, very liked within the community, a dedicated boss, Solskjaer is everything Ed Woodward and Sir Alex could have asked for.
Every time Solskjaer has been praised for his role at the club in the last month, there would have been a voice on the back of his mind saying “Tougher tests await”. Indeed, the next month itself is going to be a fate-deciding month for United as they face Paris-Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Manchester City in a stretch and also Arsenal, the coming weekend.
A nervous excitement has been a routine for the fans in the recent past and it continues to remain so.
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