As much as it hurts me as a Liverpool fan, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves a tip of the hat for all he’s done in little over two months at Manchester United.
The Norwegian has dramatically turned the tables around at Old Trafford. Not only has Ole improved the results but he also picked up the pieces of United’s wrecked confidence and rebuilt the atmosphere, team spirit and the overall attitude within the squad.
Feel free to call me out for stating the obvious but I find it rather appropriate to focus my first-ever post about Manchester United on Twelve’s blog on the effect United’s former striker has had in such a short time since replacing the obsolete, antediluvian, vieux jeu, ________ (choose your own attribute) Portuguese back in December.
For an eternal football romantic – albeit a Liverpool fan – it gladdens me to see United decided to go back to their roots with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even for a short while. Perhaps it’s just me but every time I look and hear Ole speak it’s like having Fergie back.
Forget the glasses, thick Scottish accent and other obvious discrepancies. Ole’s self-confessed influence of Sir Alex is evident. Having spent 11 years playing under the fabled Scotsman, Solskjaer is doing what Fergie did best – transforming United into a feared animal.
United have gone quite a distance in a short period of time, transforming from the Premier League’s worst counter-attacking side to the best. With 25 goals scored in 10 matches across all competitions, the Red Devils have increased their goal distribution (and the expected goal ratio) dramatically.
United traversed unbearably for most of Mourinho’s tenure and getting rid of the overly-defensive approach was always going to be Ole’s No.1 priority. The way he liberated Paul Pogba is, well, liberating.
The Frenchman was granted licence to roam and use his instincts to get into positions to both score goals and create some for his teammates, emerging as United’s most valuable player in Ole’s eight league games in charge. The records he collected in Twelve’s algorithm since Ole grabbed the helm are quite revealing.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Solskjaer’s impact on Manchester United is the way he treats – and nurtures – Marcus Rashford. It’s been quite a while since United – as a global football force, admittedly – have had a homegrown player turn into a superstar. Marcus Rashford certainly has the qualities required to replicate the success of United icons and leave the legacy of one David Beckham, Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs, to name but a few.
The 21-year-old England international forward is another player currently proving Jose Mourinho wrong. It now stands as apparent that the former manager had neither a player’s experience nor the vision Ole utilised in order to transform a promising – but highly undervalued – youngster into a confident hitman.
Having played a part in every match under the caretaker manager, Rashford has bagged six goals in ten appearances and is boasting a raging record at Twelve. No wonder Barcelona and Real Madrid have started circling around Old Trafford and casting admiring glances towards the player United will hope can get close to being the new Cristiano Ronaldo.
Bursting with confidence and newly-discovered conviction in their own ability, Manchester United are not expected to have problems against the league’s weakest defence. As much as I’d like the Cottagers to stop United in their tracks – for the sake of the obvious Serbian connection to the club from Craven Cottage if nothing else – 55 goals conceded in 25 Premier League games speaks volumes of Fulham’s (in)ability.
Prediction: Fulham 0-2 Manchester United