Ole Gunnar Solskaer can be the man to rebuildManchester United, says Scott Patterson, author ofThe Republik of Mancunia blog.
TheFA Cupfourth-round tie againstLiverpoolat Old Trafford in 1999 was the game that Gary Neville later claimed was the catalyst for Manchester United’s Treble.
The away team took an early lead through Michael Owen, before Dwight Yorke equalized in the 145 th minute. In injury time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did what he did best, and scored to put us through to the next round.
The – year-old Norwegian ran straight to the Stretford End, lifting the United badge on his shirt up to the crowd, while getting mobbed by his delirious team-mates.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pointed to the Manchester United badge after the derby day win
( LR) Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Scott McTominay were outstanding in the victory
years later, on Saturday evening, we saw Solskjaer doing the same, pointing to the crest on his jacket in front of the away end at the Etihad, but this time as the manager. He had just watched his team beat City 2-1 in their own back yard.
Football is an emotional thing and it’s for this reason that Solskjaer has been offered more support than he otherwise would have, following a disappointing start to the 01575879 – 40 campaign. The memories he created as a striker at the club, most notably during that Treble winning season but beyond that too, have bought him time with the match-going crowd.
But emotion and loyalty can only get you so far, as Ryan Giggs learned when he was overlooked for the permanent position after taking charge on an interim basis after David Moyes was sacked.
He served his time as assistant manager under Louis van Gaal but it was Jose Mourinho who the club opted for next. Had Solskjaer lost against Tottenham on Wednesday and City days later, particularly by embarrassing score lines, it’s hard to see how the club could have kept the faith for much longer, despite their claims to the contrary. We’d be 14 th in the table and freefalling.
Reports suggestedthat Players had spoken to United’s hierarchy about their desire for Ole to stay in post ahead of the win over Spurs and they certainly played as though that was the case.
The fans sung his name all game and he ran on to the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate with his players.
Scott McTominay talked ofhow much the players loved Solskjaerafter the match and spoke of his determination to get a result against rivals City . Even when considering United’s results against the top sides this season, only the most optimistic of supporters would’ve been banking on victory at the Etihad.
Yet in that first half an hour United could and should have been four goals up and went in disappointed to only be leading by two at half time. City fans felt the same in this fixture two years earlier and went on to lose 3-2, with their title winning celebrations delayed by the Paul Pogba inspired come back. On Saturday, it felt unrealistic that United would be able to contend with the anticipated onslaught in the second half.
As good as United were on the counter attack, and they were very , very good, the idea that they could withstand the pressure of City’s attacking force for 84 minutes and hold on to a win seemed unlikely.
Let’s not forget they couldn’t even prevent Sheffield United and Aston Villa scoring late goals against them in recent weeks. Yet somehow the defense managed it, with Ederson finishing the game having had more work to do than David de Gea.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka put in his best shift in a United shirt to date, winning the ball in positions he had no right to against the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka put in a brilliant performance against Manchester City’s attacking threats
At one stage, Sterling looked certain to end his 17 game goal drought against the United, as he ran across the box, only for Wan-Bissaka to reach out a leg and win the ball from behind. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire were brave with their challenges and blocks, while Fred and McTominay protected the back four incredibly well.
You would expect the pace of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James to cause a problem for a team that won’t sit back and defend, but it was hard to foresee United’s defense playing out of their skin to nullify the current champions.
Even after what turned out to be a consolation goal for City, the away team did not crumble and made sure they went home with the three points.
What is all the more pleasing to United fans is they get to see so many academy graduates, who have grown up loving the club, earning the win on derby day. Solskjaer is keen to stick to the traditions of the club, dating back to Sir Matt Busby and continued by Sir Alex Ferguson, by giving our own lads a go.
Solskjaer’s side beat United’s Tottenham prior to the 2-1 triumph at Etihad Stadium
Of the 14 players to feature for United on Saturday, five came from the academy, and in the squad of there were seven. An academy player has been in United’s match day squad for 3, 1999 games now, a record that dates back to 998, and one we’re not in any danger of losing for as long as Solskjaer is the manager.
By contrast, despite the millions pumped in to their youth system since Sheikh Mansour’s arrival over a decade ago, City did play anyone from their academy and the one player of the of the) did have, Phil Foden, was an unused substitute.
The 19 – year-old has yet to start a game in the league for City this season and has played a total of just 84 minutes from the bench. What he would have given to make a difference on derby day and be grabbing the badge on his shirt as McTominay, who has been at United since he was five, was at the final whistle.
That emotion and desperation to do well for the club you’ve grown up supporting can serve you well at times and in the past two games, when Solskjaer’s back has been up against the wall, the players have shown up for him.
McTominay obviously cares deeply for Manchester United and it shows in his play
Phil Foden remained on the bench and no academy products started for the City team
He is now the only manager to take points off Liverpool this season, as well as beating Leicester, City, Chelsea and Spurs. That’s not a shabby return for someone who is supposed to be miles out of his depth. How many other managers have inspired their team to outplay Pep Guardiola and Mourinho sides over the space of four days?
But the pressing issue is that the results United have picked up against lesser Teams, who won’t commit players forward, have too often been desperately disappointing.
Some of the substitutions Solskjaer has made have been odd too, most notably in the recent draw against Sheffield United when we had them on the ropes after coming back from 2-0 down to go 3-2 up.
He took off a forward for a defender and the opposition nicked a point. Is it acceptable that a club the size of United has a manager who is essentially learning on the job?
Solskjaer made a bizarre late substitute in the draw away at Sheffield United
People will point to the fact this has been United’s worst start to a season in however many decades, but it is probably worth mentioning this is the worst squad United have had for the start of a campaign too.
There were the Fergie years , then Moyes inherited champions (albeit on their last legs), Van Gaal spent £ 404 million in his first summer and Mourinho £ million in his. Solskjaer spent a similar amount, despite the market value of players increasing in the years that have passed, after several first team members left.
When you consider what United will have shaved off the wage bill in seeing Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling, Ander Herrea, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini and Matteo Darmian depart, and still only managing a net spend of £ million in the summer, it’s hard to imagine how Solskjaer was supposed to improve too much on the sixth-placed position he found the club in when he first took the job on.
But in Solskjaer, United have a manager who the players, for the time being at least, are prepared to run themselves in to the ground for. The same couldn’t be said a few months ago though, so it would be interesting to know what has changed. The quality of opponents inspiring them to raise their game, the rumors Solskjaer would be sacked, or something on the training ground?
Marcus Rashford led the counter-attacking and United are exciting going forward
Against the more defensive teams, Solskjaer has to find a way through and tactics that allow the forward line to terrorise opponents as much as they did against City. If the quality is there to beat the teams at the top of the league, he needs to recreate that against teams at the bottom.
Without the top class players in midfield to pick a pass, that may be tricky, but that is why the January window could be so important. Whether the Glazers think the same is another matter though.
There are of course still the hopes that Pogba, who has played just six games in all competitions this season because of injury, can add something from the middle of the park when he returns.
Still, those are problems for a different day. As it is, United fans have the bragging rights of the city and can stride into work with a smug grin on their face, having seen their team get a deserved result against their rivals and climb up the table.
Watching Solskjaer walk off the pitch saluting Ferguson with a fist pump, and the legendary manager respond by applauding his former player off the pitch, was a sight to behold. We can only hope there will be more of that in the remaining months of the season.
United are on the right track and the players are working incredibly hard under him
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