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The Ole effect

Since Ole Gunner Solksjaer has been appointed caretaker of Manchester United after Mourinho’s departure, he has transformed the squad completely and looks increasingly likely to bag the role on a permanent basis

The worst points tally after 17 games since 1990, an out-of-form and demoralised Paul Pogba, a falling out between the manager and players – Manchester United was facing its toughest time in years under Jose Mourinho, until he was sacked late last December.

It was then that the board appointed former United striker, and one of the all-time club greats, Ole Gunner Solksjaer as the caretaker manager for the rest of the season. The decision was met with skepticism since Solksjaer’s previous Premier League coaching experience with Cardiff City was a disaster.

But the Norwegian turned it around for the team. United were unbeaten for the first 10 games in his charge. From lagging behind at the sixth position, the Red Devils climbed up into the top four, all within a space of just nine Premier League matches. The players were happy, the fans were happy. He even went on to win the January Manager of the Month in the Premier League.

The biggest difference that he brought to the squad was imposing the ‘United way’ of playing attacking football. Now, fans no longer have to sit through boring defensive moves with wayward passes and very few chances at a goal – a sight that had become a norm under Mourinho. Since Solksjaer’s arrival, United have won more games than the entire season before that under Mourinho. In fact they have accumulated 25 points since Ole’s arrival – the most by any team in the top six.

In terms of goals too, United are now far ahead. Ever since Solksjaer took charge, United have scored 17 goals in the past ten games, the most for any of the top six sides, which goes on to assert the dominance and the attacking mentality of a team that seemed to lack in any sort of philosophy.

The thing that has done the trick for Solksjaer is his impeccable man management skills. The biggest beneficiary of this has been Paul Pogba. The World Cup winning midfielder was a shadow of himself, underused by Mourinho after a very public falling out, he was on his way out of the club. Under Solksjaer, Pogba is the main player around whom he has built his entire team. He now plays as an attacking central midfielder who gets in the boxes and helps scoring goals. Since the new boss’ arrival, Pogba has scored a massive eight goals in 10 matches, in addition to delivering six assists.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford too shine under Solksjaer. Though they are extremely talented, they never realised their full potential under Mourinho. Under the new more aggressive style of play, and the cheerfulness that he has brought back to the dressing room – a thing that was missing under Jose Mourinho – these two have come into their own. Rashford was Premier League Player of the Month this January.

It is not just Solksjaer — his entire staff consisting of head coach Mike Phelan and assistant manager Michael Carrick have looked the best since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.

Even though sceptics questioned Solksjaer’s managerial skills after the loss against PSG on Wednesday — United’s first since Mourinho’s departure – the things that he has done for the club, and the spirit he brings to the squad, being a former United man himself, the board should seriously consider him for the role of manager on a permanent basis.