Over 74000 fans thronged the Old Trafford on the Boxing day to see the Red Devils in action against Huddersfield Town. Their presence was made worthy by the Manchester United players as they went on to win their second straight game under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This was similar to their away win last week at Cardiff City where they didn’t let the opposition take much of a sniff at them.
The supporters made Solskjaer’s home debut memorable with huge cheers as the Norwegian marked his presence on the field. The mascot embraced the manager, who was all smiles after returning to the place at which he tasted most of his success.
This has been not less than a blessing for Solskjaer to start his managerial duties against two timid oppositions. But the limelight has been on the kind of play United have been putting out. “Intent” is the word that’s been in vogue among the pundits.
As expected, there were changes, as many as three, to give the reserves a go against a weaker Huddersfield unit. Diogo Dalot, the beacon-light for United this season, was called in for Ashley Young at right back department. Juan Mata and Fred replaced Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera in midfield respectively from the side that played at Cardiff.
In the initial 15 minutes of the game, United were caught off-guard with some cautious play by the Huddersfield midfielders which also resulted in a close chance where Terence Kongolo fumbled and missed the opportunity to take an early lead in the game.
Just after a few minutes, we could see the Red Devils rise to the occasion as Mata-Lingard-Rashford-Pogba were complimenting each other well to get some potential shots on target.
The commentator on air was quick to point out the number of passes they have been making in the attacking third in the last two games – most certainly the difference between sacked manager Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer.
These passes constantly irritated the opposition causing a number of unforced errors in dangerous positions. Such kind of play resulted in a corner for United, which eventually resulted in a goal by Matic at the far post through a deflection by Elias Kachunga at the 28th minute.
The fans went crazy and the flag marked as “20LEGEND” was up and about flying high with its true potential just like Solskjaer. The emotions reflected the kind of season that the fans have witnessed so far.
It was a proud day for Solskjaer. pic.twitter.com/tsmhR2rvN8
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 26, 2018
When it was time to get back to business, the midfield once again, was on song. The fullbacks were seen complimenting the attack well which has been a standout in the two games so far. Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw constantly put the defense under pressure with some precise long balls into the attacking half.
United went into the halftime as the happier of the two, as they led with a goal to none. Just 8 minutes after the break, Ashley Young was brought in for Dalot, and Fred made way for Herrera.
At the stroke of 63rd minute, the tiring situation of Huddersfield was made worse by exquisite passing inside the box. Rashford got it inside from the right wing to Mata who found Herrera on the inside. By then, Pogba had come storming in to take the Herrera cross and deposit it in the far post.
This was a statement indeed and there have been a few in the recent past. To add some insult to Huddersfield’s woes, Pogba struck again with a fantastic long-range finish just 12 minutes shy of regulation time. The master craftsman was at business again.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 27, 2018
The morale of Huddersfield was somewhat helped with a consolation goal at the 88th minute by Jorgensen. It was indeed a consolation as they couldn’t trouble the Devils barring the initial 15 minutes. The misery didn’t end as they were pushed to the bottom of the table after the defeat.
As always, the “baby-faced assassin” was calm at the post-match press conference. When asked about Pogba’s red-hot form under him, he said,
“I was very pleased for him and the whole team. He loves football and has a big smile,
That’s the Paul I have known since he was in the reserves and youth team,
He’s always been a happy boy, a big smile on his face and when you score two you’re happy. It’s a response and Paul loves playing for this club. He’s a Manchester United boy through and through and knows what it means to play for the club.”
– Solskjaer on Pogba
As a matter of fact, the Frenchman has scored 4 goals in 2 games under Solskjaer, the same amount that he scored in the last 12 league games under Mourinho.
Solskjaer won the hearts of many when he was asked how much has he settled within the United community.
“It’s humbling knowing I’m leading this team out.
Let’s see if I get used to it. I captained a couple of games but this was very different. They are the best fans in the world. I had such a great relationship with them.
It was special hearing the crowd singing my song. It makes you really proud – and my family – and it’s a day I’ll never forget.
I was surprisingly calm all day. The lads have helped me settle in really quickly.”
Solskjaer stating the players’ role in making him feel homely at the club. Solskjaer was vocal about the change in mindset he focused upon rather than tinkering too much with the onfield combinations.
“You don’t change anything in one week but the mindset,
I want my team to play in a certain way and you give them little pointers and it’s a work in progress. It’s going to take time and I’ve done a little bit of a tweak but it will improve as time goes on.”
There is a perception around that the big front three(Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez) will be back for the next game. Martial has been ill while Lukaku is on a compassionate leave. Sanchez has been out due to a troubled hamstring.
“It’s not a bad front three to come in and knock on the door. It will be great to get them back. Maybe we’ll change the front three.
Alexis has had two days of good fitness work. He is touch and go for Bournemouth, but will definitely be involved at Newcastle [next Wednesday].”
Fans have enjoyed a delightful Christmas with a sense of “Renaissance” around. United face Bournemouth at home before the New Year’s Eve and the away to face Newcastle, next Wednesday. The stakes are high as the season progresses and pressure is mounting if United want to see themselves in the Champions League draw next season.
For now, Let’s sit back and ponder over what the coming week promises to bring. Let’s see if the New Year is as merry as the Christmas was for the fans.