For the first time in a little under five years, it is going to be a very merry Christmas at Manchester United. From the confusion of David Moyes, to the snooze fests under van Gaal, to the depressing negativity of Jose Mourinho. It hasn’t been an easy ride by any means since Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his illustrious career, but things are finally different. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got everyone, from the players right down to the tea ladies smiling again.
The Norwegian was adored during his 11 years as a player at the club. Just one game in, and he’s already earned that admiration again, but as a manager this time.
Saturday’s emphatic 5-1 win may only have been against Cardiff City, but it meant so much more to those who have stayed loyal to United through all its recent woes. The players are happy again. The football on display was attacking and free flowing, allowing the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford display their full potential.
Football is fun again at Old Trafford. The fans are buzzing to watch their team play again, and Huddersfield on Boxing Day should be perfect to whet the appetite. With Solskjaer affirming the players that everyone will get a chance, the line-up could be pretty interesting. Here’s our guess as to what it will look like:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
All the players are likely to get a chance, but it would be pointless rotating De Gea. Sergio Romero is a brilliant keeper, but no where near the level of a man who is arguably the best shotstopper in the world right now.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw
The biggest criticism of Jose Mourinho was that he never managed to find his preferred back four. He chopped and changed defenders almost every game and it has caused massive instability at the back. Players aren’t in sync with their partner and the goalkeeper and you can see it in the results. United have conceded a ridiculous 30 goals so far – only the bottom 5 have conceded more than them.
Considering this is only Ole’s second game in charge, he will be looking to test players and find his preferred pairing. Lindelof started against Cardiff on Saturday but with Smalling and Rojo injured, he may start again. Bailly should replace Phil Jones. Luke Shaw retains his place while Diogo Dalot should come in for Ashley Young.
Midfielders: Fred, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba
Pogba was majestic in midfield against Huddersfield, and should not be dropped. Fred and Andreas Pereira are two players who can be deadly going forward but can also act as holding midfielders. It will be interesting to see how Solskjaer utilizes two players who fell out of favor under Mourinho at United.
Forwards: Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford Anthony Martial
Lingard was outstanding against Cardiff and definitely does not deserved to be dropped. However, Juan Mata has been brilliant when given the chance to play this season and Solskjaer could use this game to test him. Romelu Lukaku continues to be absent on compassionate leave. That should see Rashford continue up front with Martial alongside him in what looks set to be a magnificent partnership.