Five reasons Manchester United should extend Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's tenure
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's bid to become the permanent manager of Manchester United is becoming more compelling with every game. The feel-good factor at Old Trafford has now started to seep through the corridors of power at the club. Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino remains United’s No.1 target to take charge but there is a growing realisation that meeting Daniel Levy’s compensation claim might not be enough to bring the Argentine 200 miles north to Manchester. Solskjaer already has staunch supporters on United’s football board. We take a look at how he is building his bid to convince the executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the American owners that his sabbatical from Molde should be made permanent at the end of the season.
5. Defensive Stability
Solskjaer has abandoned the flat back-four that invited pressure by ordering his full-backs to push up high and get United on the front foot. But his tactical plan has an insurance policy that includes both Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera offering protection as central midfield screens. Victor Lindelof, in particular, is thriving under the greater responsibility and has blossomed into a ball-playing centre-back. United need another centre-back and a new right-back, but Solskjaer’s better use of the players at his disposal has enabled the team to make the most of the potent counter-attacking threat they have.
4. Paul Pogba
The sight of the French midfielder arriving late in the six-yard box of the opposition to score goals at the Stretford End is what was envisaged when United sanctioned a world-record £89m transfer fee to bring him back to Old Trafford. Despite the flicks, tricks and terrible dance moves, Pogba is a simple soul who just wants to be loved. Solskjaer has found a cure for the man Mourinho called “a virus” by letting him to do the things he does best. Pogba does not possess the discipline to operate as the deep-lying playmaker who protects his defence, but he has got the vision, the technique and the physicality to influence games with a flash of genius.
3. Freedom of expression
One of Solskjaer’s first orders when he took over was to tell Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial that he wanted them to spend less energy tracking back to defend so that they could exploit their explosiveness where it mattered. Both forwards looked like they were tethered to a ball and chain under Mourinho, but now they are operating higher up the pitch and are on the front foot. Rashford, in particular, has looked a revelation in the central attacking role he favours. Solskjaer has brought an immediate improvement in United’s results and performances because he trusts his players.
2. Sir Alex Ferguson
The former United manager is once again exerting his influence in the boardroom following his health scare last May, and he is a staunch supporter of the man who once scored a goal to win him the European Cup. Fergie was instrumental in the decision to replace Mourinho and take the extraordinary step of bringing in an interim boss, whose only previous managerial experience in the Premier League ended with Cardiff being relegated. Ferguson’s fingerprints are all over the way United have thrown off the Mourinho shackles and if a kindred spirit like Solskjaer can continue to improve the team then the Norwegian will have a strong ally in the boardroom next May.
1. Winning games
Solskjaer has become only the first United manager to win his first seven games, eclipsing Sir Matt Busby's longstanding record. The gap to the top four has now been slashed to two points with 13 games of the season remaining and if Solskjaer can deliver a place in the Champions League then he will have achieved more than the club expected when they asked him to heal a dressing room that had been torn apart by Mourinho’s methods.