Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd: Five things we learned from interim manager’s first win at Cardiff
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 5-1 victory at Cardiff City. Here’s what we learned from their first outing under the interim manager.
Pogba played with smile on his face
It was his first start since 1 December and he looked a little rusty to begin with and there were a few stray passes. But once he got into his rhythm he began to flow.
He had obviously been asked to play further forward than under Jose Mourinho and showed far more devil than he did under his former manager. He took people on, played a key part in the Ander Herrera goal and put in a decent shift.
There is much more needed from him, but at least the new management team got him on the field and playing with a hint of a smile on his face. Those early goals helped.
United show urgency in attack
Solskjaer is an advocate of attacking football and it was noticeable that he took the shackles off his players. Ashley Young and Luke Shaw were bombing forward and there was much more urgency in getting the ball forward than under Mourinho.
To the Cardiff fans, much of this was familiar, as United were almost caught out in defensive numbers having thrown so many men forward. Now, at least, he may have the quality of player to implement his philosophy. It was enough to please the fans, though, and get them chanting their interim manager’s name, rather than pleading for ‘attack, attack, attack’.
Players free to showcase skills
If there was a concern that the players weren’t playing for Mourinho, there was certainly no evidence of them rest on their laurels for the new man. With only a week to work with them, Solskjaer’s only real chance of changing things was in the mental attitude. He gave them a freedom they have been lacking of late, although it was only against a team struggling near the bottom of the table. But the players obviously relished the chance to play further forward and to showcase their attacking skills. They started like a train, but never let up. They went for the jugular and put a smile on everyone’s face.
United bond between player and coach
When the Manchester United bus pulled up outside Cardiff City Stadium there were a few Bluebird fans who booed Solskjaer as he got off. It was the same when he walked to the dug-out before kick-off, but nothing malicious. It was half-hearted at best.
As for the United fans, they gave him their backing right from the off with chants of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ and ‘don’t take my Solskjaer away’. You are supposed to back your manager, but you got the feeling they meant it this time. There is still a genuine bond between the fans and the man who once played a key role in winning the Champions League for them. Those three first-half goals also helped his cause.
Stiffer challenges lie ahead
As a starting point to what United fans hope will be a beautiful and lasting relationship, things couldn’t have gone much better. But there are much stiffer challenges ahead. Cardiff boss Neil Warnock predicted in the build up that Solskjaer should win his first four games.
He certainly got off to a flying start and Boxing Day brings a home clash with Huddersfield. Four days later, Bournemouth visit Old Trafford. The fourth game in Warnock’s sequence is at Newcastle United. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until United head to Tottenham on 13 January to see if Solskjaer has what it takes to turn from the ‘Temporary One’ into the ‘Permament One’.