More than just Anti-Mourinho: How Solskjaer ManUnited makes you laugh again
Football is fun after all! Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not only successful, but also handsome. What a virus, hairdryer and chocolate have to do with it.
Another joke is making the rounds, which the author as such had not even thought of. José Mourinho said shortly before his dismissal at Manchester United about the remaining goals for the season: “Get as many points as possible and somehow perform the miracle of finishing fourth.” About eight weeks later, Mourinho was able to say: Miracles for the time being – but not by him.
His successor, the loan from Molde, apparently brought back to ManUnited in eleven competitive games everything that had been lost in two and a half years under Mourinho. Thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United is fun again; not only its fans, but also its players. Thanks to Solskjaer, United stands for something again. And thanks to Solskjaer, United is miraculously fourth.
Mourinho was only complaining – good for Solskjaer
The charismatic Norwegian, already a fan favourite since scoring his last-minute goal against FC Bayern in the 1999 Champions League final, has won ten of his eleven games as an (interim) coach, has not lost a single one and has now also passed against big opponents. All of a sudden, ManUnited have their season’s goals back and are looking forward to the Champions League matches against an extremely decimated Paris Saint-Germain.
Solskjaer was also lucky. Not because David de Gea in Tottenham or Victor Lindelöf against Burnley saved his immaculate record, but because Solskjaer is everything – except Mourinho. In his infamous third year, “The Special One” was special only because of complaining, basically anti everything and everyone. The Anti-Mourinho, who wants to be called “Ole” and not “Boss”, came just at the right time and became an Internet hit just by doing the trick of laughing instead of going away and demanding “some respect” in an interview.
As soon as Mourinho is gone, United can suddenly play football.
And the craziest thing: Solskjaer wants to play offensive football. On his arrival just before Christmas, United was sixth with a 29-29 goal difference and eleven points behind a Champions League place. Now United are fourth by one point ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea, have scored 23 goals in nine league games under Solskjaer and only conceded six. “We also want to take a risk,” explains “Ole”, “we want to go for the second, third and fourth goal.”
That’s the Manchester United he met in eleven years as a player under Sir Alex Ferguson. The inhibitions and fears of disappointing Mourinho and being publicly put down have disappeared from a thriving squad. United want to play the game again and not prevent their opponents from doing so; Solskjaer has now gained the respect and prestige of his players with clever tactical ideas.
“Pogba is actually as good as people have always hoped.”
Hardly anyone embodies this change of identity better than that cabin “virus”, which Mourinho had taken away from the vice captain’s office before the season. Paul Pogba knows for the first time in his third year back from Turin what he really has to do on the pitch. The World Champion now plays more offensively, no longer has to deal with defensive tasks and does it outstandingly: No player has scored more goals (8) and prepared more (6) since Solskjaer’s arrival. “Lovin’ life,” ManUnited Pogba’s goal celebration at Fulham 3:0 was telling, now that no one is stopping him.
Every Pogba goal works like a slap in the face for Mourinho. “The lessons of the last few weeks,” the “Independent” analysed with a hint of sarcasm: “Pogba is actually as good as people have always hoped.” And not the only one who shows with the new, old ManUnited that football can be a lot of fun: Anthony Martial, who was sold almost before the start of the season due to the birth of his son, is playing liberated and has now even extended his contract. Marcus Rashford is allowed to play at the top of the league and only missed two league games under Solskjaer.
He clearly tells you when things weren’t so good.
Matthias Moström, former team-mate of Solskjaer, in the “Guardian
With Mike Phelan, Solskjaer has brought back a decisive element to his coaching team. The 56-year-old was once the right-hand man of Sir Alex, who still has a lot of influence in the club and is said to have nodded off the new coaching team, and together with Mark Dempsey (55) is the perfect addition to Michael Carrick (37) and Kieran McKenna (32), promoted by Mourinho, with Solskjaer (45) in the golden middle.
There is a lot going on right now in the red part of Manchester (in the light blue part anyway) and the team behind the team feels that too. Solskjaer is said to have always returned with chocolate bars after his visits to his home country and to have distributed them to all employees of the club. A tradition that he reintroduced on his first working day on 20 December.
Solskjaer has even kept the “Fergie-Fön”.
Solskjaer can also do otherwise: “He tells you clearly when things haven’t been so good,” Matthias Moström, former team mate in Molde, reports in the “Guardian”. Solskjaer has continued the tradition of the “Fergie-Föns”. Ryan Giggs once told the story in which his hair dried very quickly when Sir Alex shouted at him at close range in the cabin.
And what happens next? Officially, Solskjaer has to return to Molde in May, he is only on loan. But what happens if he really kicks PSG out of the Champions League, wins the FA Cup at Chelsea and (miraculously) finishes in the top 4? The names Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham), Max Allegri (Juventus) and Zinedine Zidane (recently Real) continue to hover quietly above Old Trafford, but seem to move away with every Solskjaer victory. “Ole” takes it calmly: “It’s never about one person if the team wins football matches.”