Jose Mourinho had been handed the pink slip after Manchester United suffered a series of shocks this season where it became clear that the Portuguese’s tactics and man management had made it difficult for the “once upon a time giant” club to re-experience its glory days. A host of draws, a number defeats and one-goal margin narrow victories were what the Red Devils’ ship was buoyed by, in the first half of 2018-19 season of premier league which may as well be called a turbulent voyage for the Poseidons of yore.
Solskjaer was then given the charge to handle the sinking ship of United as a caretaker manager. No one had expected that the Norwegian would plug all the holes immediately but from the results of the team after 8 matches under him it appears that he has defied everyone’s expectations. 8 straight victories in 8 matches under him have seen him having the best ever start a Manchester United manager has ever had. But what’s even sweeter to hear is that this isn’t just the end of his shining start as the coach of his team as they’re prepared to kick more ass.
Let’s learn how Solskjaer turned the fortunes of the lousy old Manchester United and transformed his squad into a juggernaut which steamrolls everyone in its way.
- Rejuvenation of the squad
Ole has put in efforts to change the mentality of the squad. Right from his initial days he has held one to one conversations with his players and instilled confidence in his team with his pep talks. He empathized with each player and told them to enjoy their game. He wanted his players to play entertaining football and not be afraid of taking risks.
- Tactical Change
Ole has brought back the attacking approach of football switching from the defensive philosophy used by Jose Mourinho which lied at the other end of the continuum. Under Mourinho when most of the players were given defensive duties, United under Ole has seen players attacking more and more instead of settling with narrow leads.
He generally uses the 4-2-3-1 formation with full backs allowed to go high up the pitch to provide width. The other major change is deploying Pogba as attacking midfielder with Matic and Herrera as the double pivot. The 3 players behind the striker interchange positions and play passes to pull the opposition out of shape. These are the main characteristics of Ole’s United.
- Unleashing Pogba
The change of style has seen Paul Pogba liberated off his shackles and inflicting more damage to the opponent than anyone. He went from being benched in Mourinho’s time to emerge as the best player of United this season. That’s because Solskjaer is using strengths the way it should be used. Jose did not allow Pogba to go forward often and Ole on the other hand uses him as a no. 10. Pogba is given the freedom to occupy advanced positions and attack.
In the first 5 PL matches under Solskjaer, Pogba scored 4 goals, grabbed 4 assists (and took 4.4 shots, created 2.6 chances and completed 2.2 dribbles per match). Contrastingly under Jose, in 21 appearances he had 4 goals, 2 assists (and took 1.9 shots, created 0.9 chances and completed 1.3 dribbles per match).
- Tapping Rashford’s Potential
Mourinho had Marcus Rashford playing as a winger one week and a lone striker the next. Solskjaer has put faith in him and provided him support to play effectively in that position.
Ole has worked with Rashford in the training. The youngster has scored differently every time. Under Mourinho, Rashford had 3 goals and 5 assists in 14 appearances while under Solskjaer he has 5 and 2 assists already in 8 appearances. Besides, he’s also shooting 3 times more and dribbling twice as much under Ole as compared to Mourinho.
- Handling Youth
Solskjaer knows how to deal with youngsters well. He has infused confidence in Rashford and Martial and has also given minutes to academy players Angel Gomes and the likes. Diego Dalot also recieved his fair share of minutes. Senior players know their places are not guaranteed, and youngsters know if they perform they will get their chance. Everyone raises their game as a result.
These are the major changes Ole has brought at Manchester United and things seem sanguine if it goes the way it is going. United are three points away from the Champions League qualification spot and they might as well grab it if Chelsea loosens its hold over the seat.