Manchester United’s caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has got off to a flying start: 5 wins out of 5. The away match at Cardiff City was a turning point for Man United’s season, as they finally played in a way that resembled the old Ferguson era. The result of these new tactics were clearly effective, resulting in a 5-1 victory. This is the first time United have scored five goals since Ferguson’s last game against West Brom. This match was followed by similarly impressive dominating performances against Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Newcastle in the Premier League. Critics would argue that United is yet to be truly challenged but 4 straight wins in the League is impressive for any team, given the level of quality in the Premier League.
Solskjær appears to have lifted the curse of Mourinho, eradicating the archaic, pragmatic tactics of his predecessor, in favour of a higher press, with the full-backs taking up much higher, attacking positions on the pitch. The tactical switch-up is best encapsulated by the demotion of Marouane Fellaini, a regular feature in Mourinho’s team, from first-team starter to the bench or even out of the squad all together. Fellaini may be the Messi of chest controlling a long ball from the goalkeeper, but he is one of the slowest midfielders in the Premier League, and would not even come close to the starting eleven of any other team in the top six. He is the epitome of slow, pragmatic football, with an extremely limited passing range and the dribbling abilities of a 5-year old child. The only reason he appeared so regularly was due to Mourinho’s clear bias towards certain players, within his loyalty-camp. With Mourinho gone, it feels as if players will finally be judged via their merit and not their personal relationships with the manager.
Finally the qualities of a potentially world-class player are coming back into the spotlight.
Furthermore, this is demonstrated by the revival of Paul Pogba, who has scored 4 goals in 4 games, having been given a free, attacking role under the new manager. Finally the qualities of a potentially world-class player are coming back into the spotlight. He was clearly fed up under the old manager, and personal differences found their way on to the pitch as well. This feeling was most likely mutual with many other players, including Anthony Martial. The contrast of the players under Jose and in this new regime is stark, even though it is just early days under Solskjær. United are currently 6th place in the league, 3 points behind Arsenal and 6 points behind Chelsea. Solskjær has given fans hope of challenging for the 4th spot, something that seemed impossible after the embarrassing loss to Liverpool under Mourinho.
Manchester United is a club with immense history and a philosophy ingrained into its culture. They promote youth, play attacking football, use full-backs high up the pitch, and win trophies. The elements which make this club great have been disappearing since Ferguson retired. This is mainly because all the manages which have been appointed since, have been tactically pragmatic managers, not ones which promote tactics which encourage risks and attacking intent. Within a handful of games, Solskjær has brought that back. The greatest challenge will be the upcoming game against Tottenham.
Solskjær still has many tests, but his appointment is a key step in the right direction for the club.
It is great to see United promoting youth and playing with flair and venom. The players look like they are finally enjoying football once again. Solskjær still has many tests, but his appointment is a key step in the right direction for the club. It is a nostalgic reminder as to what this club should be, and what it can be. This season has been terrible at points, even when Manchester United were winning. Mourinho’s negative tactics made the football boring to watch for fans. Hopefully the club and its players can make the most of the rest of the season, such as to carry on reminding everyone what Man United should be doing, and how they should play. Slowly, they can begin to build up the reputation of the club to the same levels of the Ferguson-era.